Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013)
When: May 2014
Where: Coronet Notting Hill Gate
You'd think nothing of a white transit van driving round the streets at night, on it's way home after a day out delivering goods, transporting furniture, machinery, basically making the world go round. Perhaps if it were driving erratically you'd be more suspicious, is it full of stolen goods, a drunk driver? What if it was a young woman asking for directions, slightly flirtatious, would you get in? If you were married with children you'd probably already be home eating dinner, watching TV, getting ready for bed. If you had a significant other you'd certainly not want to risk her wrath if she saw you getting dropped off by a young lady driving a van, it really wouldn't look good at all. How about if you were single, living alone with nothing to do? Would you accept then? After all it seems pretty harmless, young girl delivering antiques from a transit van, you couldn't get much safer than that?
She looks a little lost and she's quite attractive, why not? With an accent like that she must be quite well to do, what should I say? Not to worry she does most of the talking, where are we headed again? Would you like to come over to my friend's place? Ermm... Sure why not, beats being home alone, freedom or otherwise. Maybe I'm a good catch after all, perhaps she's after something a little different, maybe she's just saying thanks? Okay, this is more than thanks, she's a little flirty, I like it but it can't be true, that's for sure.
We're here now, nothing to lose by going inside, it's a pretty dark in here but she's taking her clothes off and beckoning me over. I know what I need to do now. Oh no, she's out of reach, I feel like I'm in quick sand. There she is, so near yet out of reach. What? There's someone else down here. Too late now. I'm confined to this place. Nobody will come and find me, nobody knows I'm gone.
If Under the Skin ended with that it would be too simplistic, if you are a young, single and slightly lonely man not used to female attention the odds of you jumping into a transit van with a beautiful woman followed by the promise of sex you'd do exactly what the men in this film did. You'd not worry about the aftermath, about the man on the motorbike removing all traces of your existence from the planet.
But the film asks us more, what lies under the skin? When our alien hiding in human skin needs help a lonely man takes her in, reversing the roles, she wants to leave without a trace for fear of him discovering the truth about her, after a night of passion (well not exactly!). Walking in the woods emotionally unsure after the kindness shown to her in an hour of need our alien is stalked and set upon by a man who tries to rape her. There is a child like innocence to adulthood from our alien, much like the men she trapped. There are mixed emotions as whilst nobody truly wishes rape on another, we are not talking about an innocent victim, though our rapist perhaps thinks otherwise until her human skin is damaged and left behind.
The isolated people in an isolated atmosphere become easier to empathise with, the novelty of the nudity has worn off. The sense of feeling trapped increases and I feel worse inside, I don't know if I feel proud to be a man or even human but then is that really our fault? Ignore the scenery, the beauty, if she drove past right now would you get in, knowing what you know? If you were vulnerable would you help someone else or hope they went away? Could you just wipe their memory away, make them no longer exist and move on? Do you understand why they don't say no? Do you understand why you don't say no? This is no Tarantino death/rebirth of the modern man under threat by a smarter stronger woman, more a simple desire to get under our skin and see what is really underneath.