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Under The Skin: Beach Fun

By Karel Segers

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Unless you've read the original novel, you won't know until late in the film that Under The Skin is the story of an alien in human form . Still, the filmmakers reveal in interviews: "part road movie, part science fiction, part real, it’s a film about seeing our world through alien eyes."

In fairness, I would have enjoyed the film a whole lot better if I knew this before watching. Perhaps this confusion about what to reveal and what not lies at the basis of director Brian Glazer's mixed success at the box office.

Glazer is what you would call a cult director. He has a smallish, dedicated following. His debut Sexy Beast grossed only about $10m worldwide, but it established him as a force in the indie world. For Birth, his next, he had $20m to play with (most of which I suspect went to Nicole Kidman's fee).

That movie barely made its money back, and it took Glazer nine years before getting another picture into the theatres. With a production budget of $13m and a reported worldwide gross of just over $5m for Under The Skin, one wonders if he'll be helming again any time soon.


Still, I'll always be interested in Glazer's movies. They are eerie, unnerving. They linger in your memory, and get under your skin. To me, this is a sign of relevant cinema.

In this picture, Scarlett Johansson plays a woman who roams Scotland seducing men, then killing them. This ritual repeats itself over and over, until she too meets a harrowing end. The scenes of seduction and sex are disorienting and alienating, to an extent that we can't really tell what is going on, how and why.

It is one of those stories I kept watching out of intrigue (contrary, of course, to those who confessed to keep watching for the substantial amount of Scarlett in the flesh). Where could this all possibly lead?

When any answer is ultimately lacking, you are left with the choice to accept this as art - or dismiss it as nonsense. I'm divided. In my view, great cinema doesn't leave the viewers in the dark, with an attitude of “Didn't you get it?”



That said, Under The Skin has one scene that represents Jonathan Glazer's style of filmmaking (and it doesn't have Scarlett naked).

If you haven't seen the movie, I'm not sure whether it will draw you in, or turn you off completely. But it may haunt you forever... if you're a human being.

The scene sits about twenty-five minutes in, and is set at the beach during wild weather. Our heroine watches the drowning of a couple in the waves while their infant child is left alone, crying. As a parent, I found this the most heart-wrenching scene ever.

But it's not over yet.

Unmoved, the woman observes how a swimmer in wetsuit fails to rescue the couple, and washes up on the beach, exhausted.

What happens next, is profoundly disturbing, and if you're in need of something to cheer you up, perhaps leave this one for later.

Or pour yourself something strong.

About Karel Segers

Karel Segers wrote his first produced screenplay at age 17. Today he is a story analyst, script editor and producer with experience in rights acquisition, script development and production. His screenwriting classes have trained writers in Australia, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and his clients include international award-winning filmmakers as well as three Academy Award nominees. Karel is the founder of The Story Department and!, and he ranks in the world's Top 10 of most influential people for screenwriting on Twitter.


Screenwriting Article by Karel Segers

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