A mysterious woman seduces lonely men in the evening hours in Scotland. Events lead her to begin a process of self-discovery in this dark and compelling film based on the novel by Michel Faber.
Studio and Year:
The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
LionsGate - 2013
Feature running time:
English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
English, English SDH, Spanish
Walter Campbell & Jonathan Glazer
Blu-ray Disc release Date:
July 15, 2014
"What lies beneath…"
A voluptuous woman of unknown origin (Johansson) combs the highways around Scotland in search of isolated or forsaken men, luring a succession of lost souls into an otherworldly lair. They are seduced, stripped of their humanity, and never heard from again. Based on the novel by Michel Faber, Under the Skin
examines human experience from the perspective of a heroine who grows too comfortable in her borrowed skin, until she is abducted into humanity with devastating results.
I haven’t read the book but wanted to see what this film was all about as I am a fan of the genre and like Scarlett Johansson. Wow, this is an unusual movie that right from the beginning (the opening sequence) leaves you wondering where it’s going. Little is explained about the motives surrounding the heroine’s actions leaving you to surmise her intentions during the early stages of act one. There is almost no dialogue for the first 25 minutes or so which doesn’t help matters. Once you get a sense of what she is doing it helps some although from that point she simply continues racking up victims with each showing just a little more of what goes on beyond her luring them to what appears to be an otherworldly dimension. You finally get to see what happens to them in the dark but to be honest you’re never told why.
I suspect that really isn’t the point as the story really seems to be about the evolution of the alien, her self-discovery and what becomes of her. This is a darkly abstract and conceptually intriguing film that speaks to the “human” condition from the perspective of an outsider. From what I have read it differs in many respects from the novel although from listening to the filmmakers this was primarily intentional. I found it to be a method piece that relied heavily on moody atmosphere, visual complexities and subconscious context. To that end it was somewhat frustrating as I could sense where it was going and why but wanted more. I believe this is exactly what was intended as we the audience almost feel forced to engage with what we are seeing in order to try and make sense of it. The result actually winds up being a compelling film experience.
Scarlett Johansson carries the film delivering a brave/excellent performance, having to work with limited dialogue while conveying the story’s innate message. There is no question that I found Under the skin
to be on the bizarre side however as I thought about it my reaction to it changed. It’s not a wholly satisfying film but it creatively succeeds at imposing its sensory experience. To that end it is deserving of deeper consideration and a higher rating than I initially thought. I plan on another viewing to glean more from its intriguing allegory.
The rating is for graphic nudity, sexual content, some violence and language.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency effects:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
- Low frequency extension * (non-rated element): NA
Under the skin comes to Blu-ray Disc from LionsGate HE featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 20 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.3 Mbps.
- Black Level/Shadow Detail:
- Color Reproduction:
By design this film doesn’t boast vibrant colors are eye popping visuals but the encoding appears solid. Colors have a muted level of saturation and limited range which sets the film’s thematic tone. Overall those used are naturally rendered and appear to fall within the visual palate intended. Fleshtones have appreciable complexional distinction but the lighting used can sometimes leave them appearing flat and lacking in texture. Blacks are deep with above average delineation. Shadow detail is quite good which enhances visual perception during the plethora of scenes shot in limited lighting. Resolution is adequate so that varying degrees of detail can be seen in close ups but the video isn’t razor sharp or dimensionally strong. Not being a noticeably bright film it can appear to have a dull finish but overall quality is excellent and consistent with newer release films of its type that come to Blu-ray.
I wouldn’t classify it as an aggressive surround mix but DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack brought out the best in it. Dialogue is centrally focused and lucid with distinguishable intonation and requisite clarity. It should be noted that I had to turn on the subtitles as the actors (other than Johannson) were Scottish I simply couldn’t understand their English do to the heavy brogue. Subtle nuance and low level detail under the audio’s surface was audible and supremely articulated. I loved the airy, aurally expressive yet subtle whisper of Mica Levi’s eclectic music score. Surround activity wasn’t abundant however the entire surround platform was utilized to enrich musicality and render effective directional/spatial effects that enhanced dimension and generated a stable sound field. Dynamic range and low frequency effects appropriately augmented the recording’s elements but rarely attained levels that were substantially palpable.
- (HD) Making of Under the skin ( 9 segments totaling 35 minutes):
- Poster design
- Production design
- Ultraviolet Digital Copy
Based on the novel of the same by Michel Faber Under the skin
is a darkly abstract and conceptually intriguing film that doesn’t prove wholly satisfying but successfully engages from a sensory perspective. It comes to Blu-ray Disc from LionsGate Home Entertainment featuring excellent high definition audio/video quality and a decent assortment of supplements that provide insights from the filmmakers. Under the skin
is a bizarre film that mainstream audiences may not connect with but I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend it just the same.
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Carada Masquerade Horizontal Masking System
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Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
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Oppo BDP-103D Universal Disc/3D capable Blu-ray Player (With Darbee video processing)
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