Under the Skin (1997)
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The sexuality was real and intense, and her desperation as a woman spinning out of control was effective and touching.
Some of the best acting I've seen in quite a while. And I liked the "out there" eroticism aspect of the film. True eroticism is not portrayed well in movies anymore, at least not in the US, basically because the studios lack guts.
And I liked the fact that the film was written and directed by a woman. The scene where she has phone sex with her lover and tells him what she wants to do to him is stunning, only a woman could have written that! A man would have shied away from depicting a woman's sexuality in such a frank and aggressive manner.
But the story runs much deeper than that. Samantha Morton plays the British version of a sexually "used" American male. She frets about calling a lover, she is mistreated when she does. She makes bad decisions in choosing lovers, and loses in the end with most of them.
"Under the Skin" presents a realistic portrayal of how sexual escapism only does so much, how it only paints the faintest of illusions of comfort and companionship. It is only a silkscreen for the real problems of the need for emotional as well as sexual fulfillment as part of companionship.
What makes Morton's portrayal so powerful is its complexity of character. Following her mother's death, Morton's character goes through a series of transformations. First she is the doer, the chooser. It is she who walks out on her boyfriend, she who decides to also cheat on him, she who sleeps with whatever man she wants.
It is Iris, Morton's character who is in control, while her sister Rose is an emotional wreck. She is having a baby, she thinks her husband fancies Iris, she is concerned about her appearance, her weight, and she can't find mum's ashes.
All of this is especially sad because she is mum's favorite daughter.
But then everything changes when Iris is mistreated by several lovers, one of whom physically humiliates and abuses her.
She tries to go back to her boyfriend but finds he doesn't want her. She is left without any money and has no one to turn to except her poor sister.
It is during these series of transformations from power to humiliation that Morton shines. It is no wonder many have called this the film that made her a UK star. It is the film's frankness and realism that is attention-grabbing as well. A true window to the world of random hook-ups. Love isn't very easy to find after all.
This character-driven and fictional British film has a very experimental film style where sound, image, color, motion and atmosphere are key elements. With one of Liverpool's suburbs as a backdrop and with great compassion for her characters, Brazilian filmmaker Carine Adler examines grief's diverse effect on two working-class sisters. Her hand-held camera-movements, long takes and insistent use of close-ups creates distinctive realism, interesting perspectives and poetic moments, and the afflicting and far from sensual eroticism which is highly present in this internal psychological drama is effectuated by the fact that she tells the viewers more than she shows.
English actress Samantha Morton's involving voice-over narration drags the viewers into her consult seeking soul in a lyrical and fiercely honest way. Her debut feature film role is a bare-skinned interpretation of a character that is comparative to Emily Watson's title role in Lars Von Trier's "Breaking the Waves" (1996), radiates the potential she has maintained in films such as Woody Allen's "Sweet and Lowdown" (1999) and Jim Sheridan's "In America" (2002). "Under the Skin" is a melancholic study of character which due to it's sarcastic humor avoids falling into the dark deep. Large parts of the film plays out inside the mind of the protagonist and Samantha Morton's philosophical monologue is like an unreachable poem in this heartrending piece of cinematic poetry from the late 1990s.
At one point in this movie she walks along a ribbed fence, while touching it with her right hand: taktaktaktaktak. I don't know if this is a reference, but it reminded me of a scene in one of Kieslowski's Trois Couleurs films (Rouge, I believe.) There an equally tormented woman walks along a brick wall in a similar way, wounding her right hand which starts to bleed heavily.
I wouldn't say those films are really the same, but I would certainly recommend the one if someone would like the other. In both films, as well as Morvern Callar, we follow a female protagonist unable to deal with a traumatic experience, the passing away of someone very close to her. We follow her down the road of estrangement, wondering if she will ever find peace.
i watched this late one night not knowing what to expect and was fascinated by the slow disintegration of the main character Iris. definitely a film to watch for anyone who appreciates movies that reveal things about life rather than offer mawkish fairy tales to pacify viewers.
Iris, the younger, is the most affected one. She has to deal with realities which she was ill equipped to do. Staying in her home turf, she begins exploring with sex to some bad results. Iris gets sucked into despair after things do not turn the way she wanted. Even the relationship with the man she wants leaves her unsatisfied.
Rose, on the other hand, has a solid marriage. She is expecting a child. Her sister's situation worries her, but there is so little she can do to restore her sibling's peace of mind. Their conflict comes to an end after Iris has fallen deeply into a situation she cannot get out of without Rose's help.
A stunning directorial debut for Ms. Adler, as well as a breakthrough performance for the twenty-year old Ms. Morton, who soon after the release of the film has been working steadily in her native country as well as in American films. The film is set into a depressing background, which bears heavily in what Iris is experiencing after the ill timed death of the woman, whom both daughters adored. Rose's life is serene as she can deal with grief differently, whereas Iris begins a descent into hell.
Ms. Morton shows no fear in giving her all in the film. She proved from the start she had what was needed to create her character. Clair Rushbrook, who we saw in Mike Leigh's "Secrets and Lies" has turned to television work. Her absence from the big screen is missed. Rita Tushingham, who was the darling of the English cinema in the 1960s and has enjoyed a long career, is seen as the mother of the Rose and Iris.
The film has a gritty quality enhanced by the camera-work of Barry Ackroyd, who has collaborated with Ken Loach and other excellent directors. The incidental music is by the talented Ilona Secacz.
A young Samantha Morton really lays bare figuratively and emotionally. It's a devastating performance. The story is a little bare, too. It's not the most complex of plots. This is mostly compelling as a showcase for the future star.
I agree with another comment on here that the music was especially good. It would be nice to have a soundtrack album available. Some of the ambient stuff was worth playing again.
In a way, this was a kind of magical realism. Iris certainly had some mental health problems and I think this was brilliantly portrayed by the director and by Samantha Morton. I can't believe I already saw her in Emma. I must revisit that one.
I recorded this off Channel 4 and only recently got around to watching it. I think it deserves a second viewing.
After spinning out of control for most of the movie, she apparently resolves her problem with her mom's passing and a conflict with her sister as well. But this film does a lot better job of depicting Iris' problems than it does explaining them, or explaining how things work out in the end. Consequently this viewer felt about as satisfied as one would after one of Iris' sexual encounters. Although this film was written and directed by a woman, produced by another woman and focuses on female characters, it doesn't explain the woman's point of view to my satisfaction. The film had a lot of potential but was ultimately disappointing.