A solitary female alien (Scarlett Johansson) drives around suburban Glasgow and the Scottish Highlands, befriends isolated men, lures them into her white van and brings them to derelict houses where they disappear. A mysterious biker follows her movements and cleans up afterwards. This is the basic premise for British director Jonathan Glazer’s highly original and unsettling science fiction/Gothic thriller Under the Skin (2013).

Under the Skin (2013)
Under the Skin (2013)

Loosely based on Michael Faber’s eponymous surrealist novel (2000), Under the Skin was entirely shot on location with mostly non-professional actors, several hidden cameras for certain scenes and offers a unique perspective on our contemporary society as seen through alien eyes.

Despite her insensitive gaze and lack of human emotions, the alien nevertheless strives to empathise with human beings and experiences human compassion and love at certain key moments of the film.

Playing a critical role is English experimental pop musician (as Micachu & The Shapes) and first-time soundtrack composer Mica Levi’s otherworldly and unnerving soundscape which expertly supports that vision throughout the film to become an integral part of the screenplay.

The idea was to follow Scarlett Johansson’s character and try to react in real time to what she was experiencing, not to pre-empt or reflect on things that had already happened in the film. […] For “Under the Skin”, we were looking at the natural sound of an instrument to try and find something identifiably human in it, then slowing things down or changing the pitch of it to make it feel uncomfortable. Mica Levi – The Guardian

Composed over several months, Mica Levi’s dark ambient yet beautifully atmospheric score blends simple motifs, noises, field recordings and buzzing sounds with dissonant scraped strings and wavering layers of synthesisers – all underpinning the various natural and emotional forces at play.