UNDER THE SKIN: Dialogues // TC & CR
art and edit by Catie Robbins
CR/ Oh no – it has metronome– hold on.
TC/ You know how to take metronome off right?
CR/ Haha okay I took it off. Haha…. Alright you gotta like remind me to keep checking if it’s still recording because I haven’t used garage band a lot it might like stop…probably not though.
TC/ Okay…I think it’s—I think it’s going to just keep going.
CR/ Okay…So yeah…I liked it. Did you like it?
TC/ I did…what was your initial reaction?
CR/ Yeah okay so I like, I was really excited by the opening and the first fifteen minutes, and then it was kind of, I mean it got really slow, and that’s going to be my main problem with it, is you can be artful and beautiful without feeling slow.They showed every single guy she picked up, did you think that was weird?
TC/ I did… I had read this thing before about how they filmed all the parts where she’s picking guys up with the exception of…the guy with the um, elephant man kind of disease with hidden cameras, and those guys actually—
TC/ Yeah, they were actually non actors.
CR/ Noooooo. That’s so cool.
TC/ Yes! And to be honest when I saw it I was like, well, I-I totally see that because–
CR/ That’s why I can’t understand a word they said. (Laughs)
TC/ Yeah. Exactly. Well that gets to a different point I guess–(laughs) Their non actor-ness I think is kind of apparent but super interesting. So for me that part was just bolstered by hearing the director talk about the process. Um but if I were just watching it I would think, you know, this is laborious…at best. Because once she lures the first guy across the plastic-oil-water, you get it.
CR/ Yeah and it’s really fun visually….one time…or two…It was cool like how one time they finally showed him from underneath and I thought cool they’re going to show us more of what’s going on, and then I thought great they made us wait, and they show the guy actually go underneath and they show his skin get taken away, and that was cool – so then I was excited because I thought that’s perfect, now I know why they did that, but then, they didn’t show more about that.
TC/ Right–Yeah. Nah, I—it’s um–I guess another way I thought of looking at the movie was in the context of the novel which I read beforehand,
CR/ You did?
TC/ Um. Yeah…I read it maybe a year ago or two years ago. And I thought how is this going to be as an adaptation? ….And it is not really an adaptation at all, I think that’s what–
TC/ Yeah, I think it’s for the better, to be honest, because, in the adaptation you are, basically just in a first person perspective with her character.
CR/ Oh really, but that would be so interesting…
TC/ Yeah–there are even more pickups, and she remarks upon, like, this one might be missed, this one won’t be missed.
CR/ That’s so interesting. I felt, I mean, I noticed that happening.
TC/ Oh. Yeah I don’t think it translated well into the film at all….at all. But basically in the novel, she’s turning them back into meat to send back to her home world, as this kind of nerdy, Soylent Green, kind of, um, commentary on factory farming, which is like–
TC/ –it must have been relevant at the time–
CR/ I had no idea that that was what was going on, cause I went into this totally fresh as opposed to like reading the novel–
CR/ I just saw the trailer, um, but I didn’t read anything about it before I saw it. And the film doesn’t really tell anything about what’s going on, about why she’s really doing it. And you also, I’m wondering like, in the novel, is there more insight into, do you have more sympathy for her? Because in this one, she’s so emotionless.
TC/ Um definitely you did in the novel.Yeah it kind of brings me to a point which I think you’ve been kind of talking about like her emotionlessness kind of permeates the movie because the movie has very little emotion except in few selected scenes, and in that way it kind of tries to give us an alien perspective on some very familiar parts of life.
CR/ Yeah. I sort of get that but I don’t see why aliens would be emotionless. I thought like, this alien doesn’t understand why a crying baby should cause emotion … but she doesn’t care at all, she sees them as meat—now I get that. In the movie I was like, why would she not have emotions and not care about these people?
TC/ Yeah it’s interesting because in the book she has a very complex series of emotions because her body has been mutilated as a female of her species to this disgusting extent. They gave her like breast implants and they ruined her face and her genitals and destroyed her spine to make her look human. Um, and so, she has this simultaneous fascination and disgust with human women and how they’re sexualized because she no longer has a sexual identity and in fact she pines for this member of her own species um because he’s this gorgeous, empathetic male, but she can’t even interact with him because she’s been turned into a sex object for some other …
CR/ Species that she can’t even relate to. That’s amazing I want to read the book now.
TC/ Yeah and I feel like the movie tries to get that when she relates to the man with the deformity because at least what I got from the movie is she feels compassion for him because she’s external to this weird and sometimes frightening world –because I think the emotion that she does seem to feel is fear and confusion, like when she gets dragged to the club, because even though she ends up taking somebody home, the way the film presents it is as this really disorienting, really alienating experience, for lack of a better word.
CR/ Yeah. But even with the deformed man I think maybe like your experience with the book is coloring it because when I saw that scene I was like really, really interested because I was wondering if she was feeling more for him and maybe having more of a connection at all, but then when she takes him back I was like, obviously not.
TC/ Well he escapes, she lets him go essentially.
CR/ Well it looks like he’s escaping and then, that cut is so cool because it’s all black and then it’s still all black and then she opens the door. So we’re watching him walk away, then, a door is opened and it looks like, at first I thought he was walking through the door and I thought great he escaped, and then it shows her walking through the door like she always does afterwards. So then I thought that she…didn’t let him go.
TC/ But then remember he appears in the field, and the motorcycle man actually has to track him down, and–
TC/ –put him in the trunk…
CR/ I was totally confused by that part and like […] from the first guy I was like okay we’re going to see this guy again as a human with an alien inside of him—So, with the deformed man, I thought like, the alien was inside him or something, when we saw him again. I think it comes from not understanding the whole meatpacking thing.
TC/ Oh…Yeah […] I’m trying to think of it solely through the terms of the film. The deformed man, she doesn’t assume the kind of sexual power she has over the other men where all she really has to do is tease them, she literally lets this man touch her face, feels sympathy and then he is either let go or escapes and then she goes out and attempts an actual connection with somebody. I think even the filmmaking seems to put her in the frame more with the man that takes her back to the apartment, it starts to show their relationship, there’s two- shots, he carries her over the puddle. Um visually even their spaces start to meld together whereas there’s a lot of shot and reverse shots in the pickups, they don’t exist in the same world and I thought that was really great as a sort of minimalist thing, it was one of the little clues I guess…What did you make of, for lack of a better word, the immolation?
CR/ I was like, I’m so glad they did this because this is really beautiful, I’ve been wanting one of these. What did I make of it? I just thought that was so random like that’s how he chooses to, he’s like this person’s a freak I’m going to immediately burn them, I don’t know, I felt like they just wanted to make something pretty.
TC/ I thought that it was simultaneously awful and amazing–his immediate reaction was so dumb, if I were him and I saw something silver under this person’s skin–I would just leave at that point. But her response is interesting because at least the way it’s filmed, it looks like she just allows it to happen…It’s very brief, but he pours the gasoline on her and she doesn’t flee she just walks towards this sort of expanse and it’s sort of like she’s this displaced figure…the motorcycle man doesn’t catch her which I think is important at least to her, she doesn’t get drawn back into the cycle of everything she was doing beforehand.
CR/ Right so she’s running from that she’s not running from death.
TC/ She’s running from…you know the movie is so bare that I hesitate to characterize her opinion of her work so much as her opinion of her alienation because it’s, you know, I’m here like anybody else and that’s horrible to me, and there’s this repetitive motion of pretending to have a connection.
CR/ And that said, it doesn’t matter if you read the book or not or understood what was going on—I clearly did not—yet I did think it was weird how she was so stunned in that moment and didn’t try to run—but maybe it had to do with how she felt about her sexuality and lack of, which you mentioned from the book
TC/ Yeah I thought it was just a total surrender […] she’s just so far from the whole thing, she’s just been violated existentially.
CR/ That’s a good way of putting it.
TC/ I think it’s kind of a crass way to put it, and I apologize.
CR/ Well she’s been violated over and over and then she’s like, ‘now the humans are trying to violate me too’.
TC/ I thought that was a beautiful last shot, its gorgeous, her gazing upwards in the snow.
CR/ I think that reading the book gave a lot of insight into it that could have been really beautiful and meaningful…I really enjoyed the movie because it was interesting and I love sci fi and I’m excited to see stuff like this with this style but it was too slow and I think it lost a lot of people due to the content, not understanding those deeper details from the book… I don’t think they should have brought all of that in but tiny bits would have helped to make it more meaningful.
TC/ And my guess and I can only infer but no artist wants to state exactly what they’re setting out to do but what it seems like to me is there’s the song by Neutral Milk Hotel where the lyric is “how strange it is to be anything and all” and that I feel is the thesis of the movie because not only is everything she’s going through very strange but the film also showed a lot of things we consider simple things like going to a club or going to the beach or something seem extremely bizarre. And yeah going to a club is kind of scary that’s how strange it is to go to the club, how strange it is to watch death, how strange it is to be sexual, even without the context of the book just filmically the disorientation that you feel in the club and the way the shots of the motorcycles are just dwarfed by these bizarre scottish landscapes, what happened in the ocean with the woman and the child and the dog…you don’t want to say that style can trump substance but there is somewhat of a middle ground here that I liked where how disconnected it was but how concrete the events were made it work with me to an extent. I agree most people would rather have a little more connection to feel that.
CR/ Yeah I feel like there is so much there […] but I just think with adaptation- I don’t think obviously that it should be exactly the same as the book which happens a lot these days and that’s great too but I think it could have been richer for everyone if they had communicated a bit more of those details and we still would have had everything that is there.
TC/ Definitely it would have enriched their points.
TC/ [Laughs] I don’t know, is that all?
CR/ Pretty much…I do think.it should have been less slow. (Laughs)
TC/ Yeah I think it could have given the audience a little more to work with but I think it was a singular style which I found refreshing.
CR/ Yeah it was definitely refreshing from the beginning.
CR/ Cool I’m kind of scared if I hit the stop recording button it will delete it all because one time when I was…but I’m just going to do it…but I’m nervous…
TC/ [Laughing] Just try it–