Decoding Scarlett Johannson’s Cryptic ‘Under the Skin’ Teaser

Movie Talk

One of the stranger — and most definitely intriguing — films making the festival rounds this fall season is "Under the Skin," a science fiction film loosely based on Michel Faber's 2000 novel of the same name.

The film marks a major departure for Scarlett Johansson, who stars as Laura, a young woman traversing Scotland and engaging in seemingly random and often sinister confrontations with a variety of strangers. Laura is gorgeous but a bit 'off' and aloof, but that's only because she's new to our planet: Surprise! She's actually an alien in disguise, assigned with collecting human bodies for harvesting by her extraterrestrial superiors.

The film marks the third feature film for director Jonathan Glazer ("Sexy Beast," "Birth"), a filmmaker perhaps more well-known in certain circles for his unnerving but fascinating music videos, including ones for Radiohead's "Karma Police" and "Street Spirit (Fade Out)," Massive Attack's "Karmacoma" and, most notably, UNKLE's "Rabbit in Your Headlights." Glazer's music video prowess fuels the strange teaser for "Under the Skin," which makes for a 53-second compilation of weird, erotic, and unsettling images.

Watch Mysterious 'Under the Skin' Teaser Trailer:

ScarJo is the star of the teaser, of course, first seen approaching the camera in a brunette bob and wearing little more than her underwear. "You don't want to wake up, do you?" she asks as we get a flash of what looks like a suspended human body. ScarJo is later seen in bed with a handsome would-be lover who's probably about to get the surprise of his life — one that might even beat seeing the gorgeous star without her clothes on.

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Other highlights from the rather surreal teaser include an encounter with a man with facial deformities, a scene that's been mentioned in at least one review of the film. ScarJo is also seen walking along the coastline, seemingly ignoring the cries of two men struggling in the strong ocean waves. There are also ominous shots of driving along a dark highway, a quick visit to a hopping nightclub and a flash of what looks like the beginning of a forest fire.

Glazer reportedly experimented with some radical filmmaking techniques to get a sense of realism and emphasize the voyeuristic themes of the film as we experience our planet through the eyes of a complete stranger. According to the Daily Mail, some of the hitchhiking scenes used hidden cameras in the vehicle and in ScarJo's costume, with the actress picking up actual, real-life random strangers and engaging in conversation with them. The 'participants' were later told that they were recorded as part of a movie production, but before then it was all as 'real' as possible.

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"Under the Skin" was shown at the Telluride Film Festival last week and today will screen at the Venice Film Festival. It's set for its Toronto International Film Festival debut on September 9.