Under the Skin (2013 film)

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Under the Skin
Under the Skin poster.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jonathan Glazer
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • Walter Campbell
  • Jonathan Glazer
Based on Under the Skin 
by Michel Faber
Starring Scarlett Johansson
Music by Mica Levi
Cinematography Daniel Landin
Edited by Paul Watts
Production
company
Distributed by
Release dates
  • 29 August 2013 (2013-08-29) (Telluride Film Festival)
  • 14 March 2014 (2014-03-14) (UK)
  • 4 April 2014 (2014-04-04) (US)
Running time 108 minutes[1]
Country
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Switzerland
Language English
Budget £8 million
($13.3 million)[2]
Box office $5,735,963[3]

Under the Skin is a 2013 science fiction thriller art film directed by Jonathan Glazer, and written by Glazer and Walter Campbell as a loose adaptation of Michel Faber's 2000 novel of the same name. The film stars Scarlett Johansson as an alien seductress who preys on men in Scotland. Under the Skin was released in the UK on 14 March 2014 and the US on 4 April, and received largely positive reviews; it was named one of the best films of 2014 by over 75 publications. The film competed for the Golden Lion at the 70th Venice International Film Festival.

Plot[edit]

In Glasgow, Scotland, a motorcyclist retrieves a young woman's body from the side of a road and places her in the back of a van. A naked woman strips her and dons her clothes.

The woman drives the van around Scotland, picking up men on the street. In her apartment, the men follow her into a black void and are submerged in an abyss of liquid. Underneath the surface, their bodies vanish, leaving empty skins behind.

At a beach, the woman attempts to pick up a swimmer. He tries to save a drowning couple, but almost drowns himself. The woman strikes the swimmer's head with a rock, drags him to the van, and drives away. The motorcyclist retrieves the swimmer's belongings and ignores the couple's distraught toddler.

The woman seduces a lonely, sexually inexperienced man with a facial neurofibromatosis disfigurement, but lets him escape and flees to the Scottish Highlands. The motorcyclist intercepts the man and bundles him into a car, then sets out in pursuit of the woman.

The woman goes to a restaurant and attempts to eat cake, but gags and spits it out. At a bus stop, she meets a man who brings her home, cooks her dinner, and gives her a room; she examines her body in a mirror. She then visits a ruined castle with her companion and they kiss. At his house, they begin to have sex, but she stops and examines her vagina, alarmed.

Confused, the woman wanders in a forest, eventually taking shelter in a bothy. She is woken by a commercial logger molesting her. After she runs into the forest, he catches her and attempts to rape her. In the struggle, he tears skin from her back, revealing a black, featureless body beneath. As the woman extricates herself from her artificial skin, the logger douses her in petrol and burns her alive.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Director Jonathan Glazer decided to adapt Michel Faber's novel Under the Skin (2000) after finishing his debut film Sexy Beast (2000), but work did not begin until he had finished his second film, Birth (2004). He and cowriter Walter Campbell initially produced a script about two aliens disguised as farmers, with Brad Pitt cast as the husband, but progress was slow. Glazer eventually decided to make a film that represented an alien perspective of the human world and focused only on the female character.[4]

Most of the characters were played by non-actors; many of the scenes where Johansson's character picks up men were unscripted conversations with men on the street filmed with hidden cameras. Glazer said the men were "talked through what extremes they would have to go to if they agreed to take part in the film once they understood what we were doing."[5] Championship motorcycle road racer Jeremy McWilliams was cast as the motorcyclist, as the film required a "world-class" motorcyclist who could ride through the Scottish Highlands at high speeds in bad weather conditions. The logger was played by a man who owned one of the locations researched for the film.[6] For the man with neurofibromatosis, Glazer did not want to use prosthetics; to cast the role, the production team contacted the charity Changing Faces, which supports people with facial disfigurements. The role went to Adam Pearson, who had worked in television production; his suggestions about how Johansson's character could lure his character were used in the script.[6]

Release[edit]

Under the Skin premiered on 29 August 2013 at the Telluride Film Festival. It was screened at the 70th Venice International Film Festival and the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.[7][8] It was released in the United Kingdom on 14 March 2014[9] and the United States on 4 April 2014.[10]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

Under the Skin opened with a gross of £239,000 at the UK box office.[11] In the United States, it opened with $140,000 in four theatres, earning it the highest per-theatre average of all films playing that weekend, above Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which also stars Johansson.[12] Under the Skin is the ninth-highest-grossing film in the 2014 United States speciality box office.[13] Despite this, the film failed to gain back its $13.3 million budget.[14]

Critical reception[edit]

Under the Skin received largely positive reviews and has appeared on many critics' top ten lists of 2014. The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 86% based on reviews from 184 critics, with a rating average of 7.9/10. The site's consensus states: "Its message may prove elusive for some, but with absorbing imagery and a mesmerizing performance from Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin is a haunting viewing experience."[15] Another review aggregator, Metacritic, which assigns a rating out of 100 top reviews from mainstream critics, calculated a score of 78 out of 100 based on 42 reviews, signifying "generally favorable reviews".[16] Metacritic also listed the film as the third-best of 2014 in terms of its appearance in critics' top-ten lists.[17] Indiewire listed the film as the second-best film of the first half of 2014, with its average critic rating being an A-.[18]

Xan Brooks of The Guardian gave Under the Skin five out of five and called it "far and away the best picture" in the Venice Film Festival.[19] Peter Bradshaw, also of The Guardian, said it was "visually stunning and deeply disturbing,"[20] and gave the film a perfect score of five stars, along with Andrew Lowry of Total Film,[21] Dave Calhoun of Time Out,[22] and Kate Muir of The Times.[23] Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph also gave it five stars, and wrote: "if my legs hadn't been so wobbly and my mouth so dry, I would have climbed up on my seat and cheered."[24] Richard Roeper gave the film an A+[25] and four out of four stars, stating, "This is what we talk about when we talk about film as art,"[26] while Christy Lemire also awarded the film a perfect four-star review, calling it an "undeniably haunting, singular experience," as well as calling it one of the best films of 2014.[27] Jon Espino of the Young Folks praised the film, giving it 9 out of 10 stars and calling it "easily one of the most visually haunting films of 2014."[28]

Kaleem Aftab of The Independent gave the film one star out of five, calling it "laughably bad."[29] Henry Fitzherbert of The Daily Express wrote: "it didn't get under my skin, just on my nerves," awarding it two out of five.[30] Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter said that "the film provides too little for even relatively adventurous specialized audiences to latch onto."[31]

Top ten lists[edit]

Awards[edit]

Award Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result
70th Venice International Film Festival Golden Lion Under the Skin Nominated
2013 BFI London Film Festival Best Film Nominated
British Independent Film Awards Best Director Jonathan Glazer Nominated
Best Actress Scarlett Johansson Nominated
Best Technical Achievement Johnnie Burn (sound design) Nominated
Mica Levi (music) Nominated
Jameson Dublin International Film Festival Best Cinematography Daniel Landin Won
European Film Awards Best Composer Mica Levi Won
Boston Online Film Critics Association Best Original Score Mica Levi Won
Top 10 Films of 2014 Under the Skin Won
24th Gotham Independent Film Awards Best Feature Under the Skin Nominated
Best Actress Scarlett Johansson Nominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Best Original Score Mica Levi Won
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Best Actress Scarlett Johansson Nominated
Best Cinematography Daniel Landin Nominated
Best Original Score Mica Levi Won
New York Film Critics Online Awards 2014 Top Ten Pictures Under the Skin Won
San Francisco Film Critics Circle Best Film Under the Skin Nominated
Best Director Jonathan Glazer Nominated
Best Actress Scarlett Johansson Nominated
Best Cinematography Daniel Landin Nominated
Best Editing Paul Watts Nominated
Indiana Film Journalists Association Best Musical Score Mica Levi Won
Original Vision Award Under the Skin Runner-up
Online Film Critics Society Best Picture Under the Skin Nominated
Best Director Jonathan Glazer Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Jonathan Glazer
Walter Campbell
Nominated
Best Cinematography Daniel Landin Nominated
Indiewire 2014 Year-End Critics Poll Best Film Under the Skin Runner-up
Best Actress Scarlett Johansson Runner-up
Best Original Soundtrack or Score Mica Levi Won
Detroit Film Critics Society Best Film Under the Skin Nominated
Best Director Jonathan Glazer Nominated
Best Actress Scarlett Johansson Nominated
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Best Art Direction Emer O'Sullivan
Martin McNee
Nominated
Best Music Score Mica Levi Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Best Film Under the Skin Nominated
Best Actress Scarlett Johansson Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Jonathan Glazer
Walter Campbell
Nominated
Best Original Score Mica Levi Won
Phoenix Critics Circle Best Horror or Sci-Fi Film Under the Skin Nominated
Dublin Film Critics' Circle Best Film Under the Skin Runner-up
Best Director Jonathan Glazer Runner-up
Best Actress Scarlett Johansson Runner-up
Utah Film Critics Association Awards 2014 Best Director Jonathan Glazer Runner-up
Best Cinematography Daniel Landin Runner-up
Florida Film Critics Circle Best Score Mica Levi Won
Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards 2014 Top 10 Films of 2014 Under the Skin Won
Village Voice Film Poll Best Film Under the Skin Runner-up
Best Actress Scarlett Johansson Runner-up
Best Director Jonathan Glazer Runner-up
Cinema Eye Honors Heterodex Award Under the Skin Pending
Critics' Choice Movie Awards Best Sci-Fi/Horror Movie Under the Skin Pending
London Film Critics Circle Awards 2014 Film of the Year Under the Skin Pending
British Film of the Year Under the Skin Pending
Actress of the Year Scarlett Johansson Pending
Director of the Year Jonathan Glazer Pending
Technical Achievement Award Mica Levi Pending
30th Film Independent Spirit Awards Best International Film Under the Skin Pending

References[edit]

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External links[edit]