Under the Skin 1(film; Scarlett Johansson, 2013, based on novel by Michel Faber)

The skin? A covering. A porous bag to stash away delicate organs and breakable bones. But at all costs most of it must be shrouded by fabric fashions and synthetic leather. Undressing. Dressing again. We humans spend our days doing this continually. Each change creates a new set of possibilities. Uniforms are required to get through social life, and we must be selective about revealing our skin to others. It’s clear that you cannot understand by your scowl.

But it’s what is under the skin that matters, isn’t it? What about spending some time and energy on that? Surveying it in a tarnished mirror for several hours, would you change it as easily as you change the outside, drawing on it, colouring in the lips with thick scarlet lustre, re-defining the eyes with black which will surely attract a different kind of mate, rouge along cheekbones to add healthy allure, as you do. So how does your outside reflect your inside? Your heart beat beeps under Under the Skinthere, does it? Your kidneys irrigate, do they? Your blood follows routes kept speedy by lowlands and highlands, does it? But this is science, a conversation stopper for the spirit.

During a total eclipse of the Sun, a woman is killed, retrieved by a motorcyclist from a dark mountain pathway and put into a white van. You appear and undress her with difficulty, perplexed by all the layers, some coverings long, some short, then put the clothes on. Her shoes fit perfectly, the side buckles requiring effort. Then, you drive the van to a shopping center to buy make-up and a short fur jacket.

Your skin goes out driving in desolate backwaters of a big city to entice strong virile men. You seduce them innocently using your white skin, your doe-like smile, enjoying them sitting in the passenger seat, asking inane questions, then taking them back to your ‘place,’ the shell of an abandoned house. Once there, you start to undress, walking ahead of them, using your rear view to get them excited. They undress willingly and follow you across the black lacquered floor, and with each step they take they descend into it until they are totally submerged. Then they watch your naked soles above. You seem at home on liquid black lacquer.

Meanwhile, as you collect these specimens in your treacle pot, hunch-backed motorbike men speed up and down the highland roads arranging everything for you, without a word. Finally, after trying to eat Black Forest Gateaux, you are sick, clearly unable to find nourishment in anything else but men. You come across another eligible male and he takes you back to his home, for a change. He is respectful, realizing you are disturbed, leaving you with an electric fire in your room, which you soak up the colours of across your skin, not interested in the heat. Then slowly you beguile him, but do not entice him back to your treacle pot. He tries your first kiss, which you like, and proceeds to try to make love to you, which you go along with until the moment of penetration, when you leap up to examine yourself with a light.Under the Skin 2

Horrified, you move away to the mountain forests, sleeping in a mountain hut, and are awoken by a hungry ranger. You flee and he pursues. Eventually he catches you, and starts to rip away your clothes. You struggle, but he easily turns you on to your stomach, and then realises that his hands are black and sticky, and that your lower back is black.

He stands back in horror, and then your short black tail appears through the puckered skin. He backs off, speeding away down the track, while you proceed to slowly peel the whole of your skin off. First, you pull off your wig and then your head, and under your skin you are a creature of the same black lacquer as your lair. You gradually peel back the bag you have used to entice your prey. You are black and hairless under your skin. Oh, to be free of it, but perhaps you worry how you will get men.

Suddenly, the ranger reappears, running towards you with a container of orange liquid. He dowses your half-undressed state with it, and quickly lights a match. You burst into flames, staggering out into the clearing, a pall of black smoke and flames catching the snowflakes as they begin to fall. The emergence of your true self in your forest home begs no more questions, but perhaps there were never any after all.

Under teh Skin 3


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