Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Under The Skin (2013) The Spirit Is A Sexy Ribcage and Seducing Deformity

I don't know about you, but I have found contemporary dating exponentially more difficult in the technological age. I don't think this is the technology's fault. In a certain respect and in some situations, it helps us connect more efficiently and deeper than other wise possible. However, we are flooded with information about suitors. Facebook profiles read like the sides of cereal boxes. Cryptic ingredients that hint towards what is on the inside of another person. 
For instance, if a chick liked horror movies that might tell me that she is a thrill taker who enjoys dabbling in the intensity of a roller coaster like experiences, or it might be a symptom of a girl who is compulsively re-triggering some trauma in her life. The contents of a person's profile only cover the surface of who a person, yet our brain's seek to analyze and infer what is going on beneath the surface. What is that dude really up to when he forgot to text me hello in the morning? Confronted with the blank space of a cell phone, we fill in the dots between connections with our own projections in order to seal the void that threatens a dis-congruence of meaning.


Under The Skin plays on the construction and deconstruction meaning by pairing logical and abstract scenes against each other. By contrasting structures of meaning against structures that defy meaning the viewer is forced to parallax between the two alternatives. Let's saw into how this work. Under The Skin's meat is a narrative defying journey following Scarlett Johansson as she drives around in a creepy white van trying to pick up men. Initially, she struggles and eventually snags a dude. She then drives the men back to a building where there is a black room with a mirrored floor. Scarlett paces forward in the room disrobing and leaving a trail of her clothing for the men to follow. The men follow along disrobing as they go. As they near the sparsely dressed Scarlett they begin sinking into what we thought was a solid surface, but what turns out to be some kind of force field jello. This scene repeats three times as she snags new dudes In the second scene, the camera follows the guy into the jello where he is confronted with the first dude. They meet eyes, and briefly hold hands until the first guy instantly shrivels up, like someone let the air out of a balloon. The third guy Scarlett seduces into her van is a man with Neurofibromatosis. Unlike the previous dudes which were eager to be seduced into the van the third man is hesitant. Growing up deformed has left him rightly skeptical about kindness of others. After some awkward light petting, Scarlet seduces him into her black jello chamber but changes her mind and lets the man go.

Why is Scarlett macking on all these dudes? This is a central question that film leaves vaguely answer. Alongside Scarlett's narrative there is a set of bikers that seem to be working along the luring men into the jello scheme. The biker follows Scarlet around and cleans up the evidence of the missing men, and after Scarlett makes a run for it, they are set out to find her. The deduction pulled out of this information is that Scarlett is luring men into the jello pool for a reason that transcends her specific role. If you turn to the Wikipedia for answers, you find a neat rational behind Scarlett's actions. She is alien luring men to in order to be harvested for unknown reasons. I'd argue that Scarlett is not an alien in the traditional from outer space sense. Scarlett is an allegory for the always already alienating part of the human condition. That, horrifying excess that slithers under the skin and becomes buried under painted and sometimes sublime artifice of the human body. In other words, it is rare that someone looks at Scarlett Johansson's shapely figure and wonders what really lurks behind the surface. Let's saw into this from two directions. Neither did we, wonder what physically lurks under Scarlett’s skill say the measurement of her rib-cage nor her voluptuous liver, or wish to peal behind the surface of her actress persona. The human mind creates a kind of phantasmagoria clouding capacity to truly seek to know Scarlett in her true biological and psychological depths.

Let's take a step back and think about it from the dude's perspective. You are walking along the side of the road on your way to drop some mail at the post office. A creepy white fan with a hottie pulls alongside and hails you for directions. Suddenly, the project you were in the middle of (dropping of mail) is tossed the side, and your mind begins working on articulating a description to help the damsel in distress get to her destination. The hottie interrupts you and begins flirting with you. If you are married or wrapped up in a committed relationship, you might politely decline and return to your task. If you are of loose morals or single, you might return the flirtations and accept her invitation to drive you to the post office. Once in the creepy van you find that the dialectic of flirtation is spinning deeper, and hormones are firing. Now, let's do the impossible and mindfully reflect upon the situation you are in. You just hitched a ride from a hottie in a creepy van, and you don't know anything about her. Yet, due to the flirtations, you have created an articulate-able idea of the hottie's motivation that mystifies any alternative self-interest she may have.

From the viewer's perspective, we watch the familiar gonzo-like scene play out, assuming the hormonal self-interest of both parties. Thinking we know where this is going-to the bedroom- we relax and wait for the fun to start. But something else entirely happens that while not conforming to the opposite of a sexual encounter provides something that does not fully compute. The grip on the story that led up to swim in the dark jello becomes fully deconstructed and retrospectively unrecognizable. The repetition of a near-identical scene with guy number two sets us up to be bamboozled with guy number 3, who does not fit the pattern of stereotypical dues that would be lured into a van. The disruption to the pattern provided by Scarlett's refusal to sacrifice the birth defected man to the dark jello is only justified in the last moments of the film where it is revealed that under Scarlett's skin is a relate-able abjection to guy 3's birth defected face.

At this point, the cat and mouse game ends and Scarlett runs off to buy cake. There is a strange scene where Scarlett slowly brings a forkful of cake to her mouth and spits it out. Suddenly, she is walking along the side of a country road, which reverses her role in the first segment of the film where she is following men in a car. She stops at a bus station and gets on a bus where a man who is concerned about her state takes her to his home. The next morning they go on a walk together, and find themselves in bed together. As the fourth man tries to penetrate something is working. Scarlett jumps to the end of the bed and grabs a lamp like a flashlight to inspect her no-no parts. Frustrated with what she sees she tosses a lamp, and wanders from the fourth dudes house. Dude five attacks her in the woods and tries to force himself upon her. Scratching at Scarlett's skin he pulls a large chuck of revealing something terrifying beneath. Not know what else to do he ran off and find a can of kerosene, douses our sultry hero and sets her on fire. THE END

The root problem of the human condition is that we never authentically connect with our fellow human beings to the extent that our metaphors allude to. Love is a concept that attempts to meld the unconjoinable. This is the expertly crafted message lurking Under The Skin. What is under the skin is a necessary factor of what makes a person who they are, but it is socially inaccessible, and when we catch a glimpse below the membrane, we confront the real of the other. The horrifying element that once it is released cracks through the story, we tell ourselves about ourselves leaving us terrified. The trick to this is keeping in mind that the descriptions that we project on to others what we know others to be always-always wholly external to the really-existing-other.

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