Features and Columns · Movies

How ‘Under the Skin’ Alienates The World

Probably a good time to hit play on “I Don’t Feel At Home in this World Anymore.”
Under The Skin Laura
By  · Published on August 19th, 2022

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that looks at how Jonathan Glazer’s sci-fi film Under the Skin uses non-verbal storytelling to put us in an alien’s shoes.

A mysterious woman (Scarlett Johansson) prowls the streets of Glasgow in a massive van. She’s picking up men. Not for company, not for coin, but for consumption. The alien entity wearing the skin of a woman is on an interstellar mission, its specifics never made plain, to digest what humanity has to offer … literally. But as more and more victims fall under her spell, a few chance encounters manage to get under her artificial skin. The appeal of life on earth begins to seduce the seductress. Emotions begin to emerge. Being in this world has changed her.

Released in 2013, Under the Skin marks the third feature film of Jonathan Glazer, whose history as a music video director has given him an especially gripping command of non-verbal storytelling. Under the Skin puts us in the perspective of an alien entity. From behind the camera (and over the alien woman’s shoulder), Glazer makes the everyday human world feel strange, dehumanized, and threatening. Faces are a blur. Crowds are noisy chaos. The only sounds with any clarity are the ones that the alien makes; everything else is sensory overload.

The video essay below digs deeper into how Under the Skin uses both visual and auditory techniques to put us in the skin of an alien. Consider this your annual reminder that Mica Levi’s untouchable score rips more than synthetic skin.

Beware visual and story spoilers in the video below.

Watch “Under The Skin | Audiovisual Alienation”:

Who made this?

This video essay on how Under the Skin uses non-verbal storytelling to explore the question of what it means to be human is by Spikima Movies, a Korean-Canadian who’s been dropping gems on YouTube since 2019. You can subscribe to Spikima’s channel for more incredible essays here. And you can follow them on Letterboxd here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).