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.
More videos like this
- For another taste of Spikima Movies’ work, here’s their essay on the scariest scene in 2001’s Pulse (a.k.a. Kairo). If you’ve seen the film, you know the one.
- And here’s another sample of Spikima’s work diving deep into the symbology of Bong Joon-ho‘s 2019 Best Picture Award-winning film Parasite.
- And here’s their video essay that takes a look at how the 2016 South Korean horror film The Wailing uses ambiguity to terrify us.
- And finally, here’s Spikima Movies’ video essay on how artificiality is central to the horrific heartbeat of The Killing of a Sacred Deer.
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