10 August 2014
Upstream Color and Under the Skin
I just discovered the YouTube channel "Understanding Art House" by Nerdwriter1. There're only two videos out, but those two are the excellent Snowpiercer and Under the Skin. Here's the video for Under the Skin:
After watching it at Landmark, I was reminded of Shane Carruth's equally abstract Upstream Color from last year. Both struck me as simple stories told in an un-simple manner; each using its own visual language. Upstream Color, at its most basic, could be viewed as the story of woman whose life is destroyed, willingly, by drug addiction. The men from the bar who feed her the drug are merely manifest agents of her own desire. They drain her bank accounts and sell her possessions as she would. The latter half of the movie is her struggle through recovery by partnering with a fellow ex-addict. The pig farm maps to their contrasting impulses of desire and structure.
Under the Skin represents the lead's development over time with how she relates to partners. First from having power without empathy as she lures and desiccates others. Then to a series of conversations and examinations that softens her relationships, which then leads her to live with a man who treated her kindly. That relationship ends as she is reminded shamefully of her past alien-ness. She finally shuts herself off from others, feeling unable to connect, and becomes a victim of that isolation.
That said, there's always an unfairness to analyzing abstraction as absolute metaphor. The imagery in each film is resonant precisely because it works beyond language. Neither film needs to be mapped to a traditional narrative: their internal structures are expressive enough.
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