Under the Skin (2013)

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Released 15-Oct-2014

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-Under the Skin with Scarlett Johansson (1:53)
Featurette-The Hidden Lens (2:31)
Featurette-First UK Clip (1:05)
Trailer-x 3 for other films
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2013
Running Time 103:32
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jonathan Glazer

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Scarlett Johansson
Case ?
RPI ? Music Mica Levi

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     A beautiful young woman (Scarlett Johansson) drives the streets of Glasgow, stopping and talking to men walking alone. Some she takes home with the promise of sex, but once in her house the men become submerged in a black ooze, an ooze the woman walks over without difficulty. Clearly, the woman is not of this world.

     Under the Skin is based on the novel of the same name by Michel Faber and is directed by Jonathan Glazer, who in 2000 directed the well regarded Sexy Beast but has achieved little since. Under the Skin is very much an art-house film, and a very different one at that. It is all about mood and imagery rather than plot or dialogue, and in that sense is almost pure cinema. There is no exposition or explanation, the dialogue is fragmentary and improvised, the narrative non-existent. Instead, there is a succession of stunningly original beautiful images accompanied by an experimental, unsettling electronic score by Mica Levi that is in essence more sound design than score. Clearly, Under the Skin will not be a film for those who like a clear and unambiguous plot and everything explained.

     Yet, Under the Skin has a narrative arc centring on the (unnamed) character played by Scarlett Johansson. It is no spoiler to say that she is an alien and probably the most sexy alien in film since Natasha Henstridge in the Species films. While her purpose on Earth, and that of her minder / clean up man, remains ambiguous, her character starts as a woman predator, completely in control of the situations and the men she picks up. She is also cold and distant, watching dispassionately as a family drowns without lifting a finger to help. Yet as she tries to become more human, experimenting with food (which she cannot keep down), becoming bemused by humour on the TV and trying normal sex with a man who befriends her (she is horrified), the woman transitions from hunter to hunted and finally to victim.

     This film certainly requires you to pay attention and to think, but the reward is a complex, very watchable performance by Johansson. She is low key and understated with little dialogue, and the camera lingers on her lips and her face, capturing all the nuances of expression as this woman moves from being in control, to confusion, to insecurity. This is a wonderful performance and while Johansson does get naked on more than one occasion it is tastefully done and very relevant to what the character is going through.

     Under the Skin has divided audiences and critics. The film will bore and frustrate those who like a strong plot and things explained, but if you are interested in something unusual and very different Under the Skin is definitely worth a look.

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Transfer Quality


     Under the Skin is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     The film has a very drab colour palate, being set mostly at night, in dark rooms and in the Scottish winter. In a number of scenes, for example, when the men enter the woman’s house, black fills almost the entire screen with only the figures of the woman and the man as highlights. This makes the scenes of vibrant colour, such as the red sequence, all the more noticeable in contrast. Close-ups on Johansson’s face are sharp, but much of the rest of the film is less detailed and shadow detail can often be indistinct. Thankfully blacks are absolutely solid, flesh tones natural, brightness and contrast consistent.

     Other than occasional ghosting, artefacts and marks are absent.

    English subtitles for the Hearing Impaired are available in a largish white font.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Audio is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 448 Kbps. A descriptive audio track by a male voice is also available in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224 Kbps.

     This is audio track with little dialogue, much of which was hard to hear anyway due to the Scottish accents and improvised delivery. Not that that really matters as there was nothing of any consequence said. Instead, the audio was really about the unsettling electronic score by Mica Levi and the sound design, both of which were very effective and enveloping, helping to build the tension. The sub-woofer added subtle bass to the sound design, and was noticeable during the dance party scene and as well as the crash of the waves.

     Lip synchronisation fine.

     The layer chance at 75:35 created a slight pause during a scene change.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Extras are trailers for other films plus three very short, superficial featurettes.

Trailers (6:39)

     Trailers for Edge of Tomorrow, Snowpiercer and The Rover play on start-up. They cannot be selected from the menu.

Under the Skin with Scarlett Johansson (1:53)

     Scarlett Johansson talks about the film and her character, director Jonathan Glazer and producer James Wilson talk about Johansson, all in under 2 minutes.

The Hidden Lens (2:31)

     Johansson, Glazer and Wilson talk about filming on the streets with hidden cameras where Johansson interacts with people who did not know they were being filmed. Additional comments from the visual effects supervisor and technical supervisor, showing some of the small cameras used.

First UK Clip (1:05)

     A clip of the first pick up from the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Blu-ray versions of Under the Skin in Region A US and Region B UK both include 10 short featurettes totalling just over 42 minutes, rather than the 3 we get on this Region 4 DVD. The one review of the Region 1 US DVD mentions a couple of featurettes only, so may well be the same as ours. Until more information comes, call the DVD a draw.


     With a wonderful and complex performance by Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin is definitely worth a look if you are interested in something unusual and very different. It took me about 25 minutes to get into it, but from then on I was hooked.

     The video is somewhat murky, the audio is good. The extras are minimal.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Friday, November 28, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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