jonathan glazer said that he did not intend for his film under the skin to be a gender experience but a human one and i can absolutely see what he means. however i came out feeling that overall this is a film about women- to the point where i actually felt quite hurt by it.
this is not a bad thing though. the theme was hugely subtle- a little like a girl’s experience of misogyny itself. the film mirrored this feeling perfectly.
the man on the motorbike is the patriarch. he is the one who finds the alien a body in the first place (a dead prostitute?), he monitors her throughout the film- she appears to be working for him, using her sexuality to attract men, against men- and literally capturing them through desire.
she is stealing men for him, he is in charge. it is a woman’s job to be desirable.
men are painted as easy to deceive, or in thrall to women- the man on the beach goes back into the waves to save his drowning wife, losing his own life in the process. scarlett johansson’s character is an alien, she is a predator and devoid of emotion, she literally empties men.
it is only when she becomes more human that the man on the motorbike becomes menacing toward her. being real instantly makes her fallible.
she can no longer empty men, she has no power because she has seen herself, she has inspected herself in mirrors. although she had no maternal feelings for the child on the beach, she feels for the man with the deformed face- who in some way becomes the child, wandering exposed in the grass.
she tries sensuality, first through food- which she can’t bear. she is ‘safe’ when she meets the man at the bus stop yet safety still leads to sex. the sex scene is perfect- what does she see by the light of the lamp? having a vagina, or not having a vagina- both things are construed as horrific.
so she runs away, we see her curled up in the tree tops- cosy. she is woken by a rapist, who pursues her through the woods. it’s like watching a deer getting run down- her clothes are ripped and it’s a truly terrible rape scene because it unfolds exactly in the way a woman imagines a rape to.
the rapist rips her, he literally rips her up. then as she comes out of her skin we see she has always been an alien- she is not a human. women are something else, other- black underneath. he sets her on fire and the white snow turns to ashes.