More thoughts on Under The Skin

I’m going to guess all you keeners out there who are into quality science fiction and fantasy will have sought out your local cinema showing Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin.  And I figure since it’s opened in Halifax, it’s pretty much playing everywhere.

Here are a few of my random musings/observations on the film since I went to see it a second time. Naturally, serious SPOILERS follow this sentence, so venture forth under your own recognizance.


Seeing the film a second time, I paid closer attention to the form. I don’t think I have a lot more answers to the film’s many mysteries, just ideas:

In the first scene where Scarlett Johansson’s character seems to have duplicated the woman who was found by the side of the road, the woman is still clearly alive, though immobile. I originally described her as an alien, but it may be more accurate to call her a creature. There’s no sense of her origins, terrestrial or otherwise.

She picks up an ant from the immobile woman’s body, and we get the close-up of the ant, struggling. That’s clearly meant to indicate the creature’s concern for humans is akin to what we’d have for an ant.

I really listened to the soundtrack this time. The style reminded me of Hitchcock’s composer Bernard Herrmann by way of Wendy Carlos/Rachel Elkind’s work on The Shining, remixed with electronic beats and fidgety skitters.

In my review, I was wrong about something else: Out in the streets, the creature’s hunt does, in fact, bring her in contact with other women. There is a moment when we see a montage of young women—clearly possible victims—just before the creature is shown to fall down on the street. She’s helped up by passers by, and after that scene we get a montage of older women. Are we to presume the fall is meant to teach the creature a little bit about human fallibility, fragility, and mortality?

When the creature lures the man with neurofibromatosis to her den, we see a shadow of the creature’s true form, the matte-black skin.  Why did we see her at that moment? I’m not sure. Perhaps to indicate that there was a dividing happening between her unfeeling, predatory side and her human side, capable of compassion?

The creature once again encounters an insect when she is standing at the bottom of the stairs, staring into the dirty mirror. It’s a fly, trying to get out through the frosted glass. A moment later she’s freed the man.  And, for the second time, we see the motorcycle guy clean up her mistakes. How does he know how and where to track down the naked man running across the field? And how did he know where to go earlier, to the beach, to collect the belongings of the Czech she’d bashed over the head with a stone and abducted? I assume the motorcycle guy is in some kind of regular communication with the creature, a communication that breaks down in the film’s second half as he desperately tries—and fails—to find her out in the countryside. At one point, however, he seems to split into four different motorcyclists. It doesn’t seem to do him any good.

The moment where she gets out of the van, leaving it behind, and wanders into the fog, that felt like the true break for her, where she connected with her human nature fully for the first time. The white of the fog made me think of the white background of that early scene, when she’s putting on her victim’s clothes. This is a new beginning.

She attempts to eat a piece of cake, but can’t. Then later, she is served up food by the kind man she meets at the bus stop. Did she eat that meal?

When she and the kind man have sex, she stops him immediately and examines her genitals with a lamp. Was that because she was being penetrated, de-virginized, and it was a painful, surprising experience? Makes some kind of sense, I suppose.

When, finally, she is alone in the woods, prey of the logger, I wondered if it was important that this guy was a logger. I wondered if the creature some kind of representation of nature, analogous to the elements. She began the story as an unfeeling force, but through time she has now become the victim of human need to exploit, to rape, and to finally immolate the planet. We see her sleeping intercut with the forest, trees blowing in the wind, which suggests her connection to the natural world.

Does anyone else have any thoughts? Feel free to share them in the comments.

And, for those who are interested, here’s a somewhat enlightening interview with the director.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.