"This feeling of not belonging to our world"
by Domenico La Porta
- The British director came to present his film, Under The Skin, in competition at the 70th Vencie Mostra
What themes did you want to approach with this story?
The film talks about death, sex and other things, but these themes were not goals as such. They imposed themselves during the writing phase, filming and editing... I don’t make films by thinking about themes, I rather focus on the impression I get from the screenplay and on the feeling I want to communicate to the spectator. Here, it was really about – as in the novel – communicating this feeling of not belonging to our world. This creature walks amongst us and sees things that are normal to us with extra-terrestrial eyes, which suddenly renders them abnormal. That was the emotions that was of interest to me and which I wanted to communicate with this film.
Why did you choose to film a good number of scenes with a concealed camera?
We wanted to disguise Scarlett Johansson, who is very famous, to throw her into the real world or a slightly more remote location. This idea imposed itself straight away in order to, once again, provoke this idea of the "visit" of a creature in a world that isn’t hers. It could seem a bit theoretical at first but the concept was too tempting not to give it a try in practice. In the end, some scenes worked very well, like those in which she asks for directions to real people and leaves her natural charm work without being recognized. There is also a scene where she falls in the street. No one knew it was her. In other scenes like in the nightclub, it was more difficult to hide the cameras and we had to take several shots, which obviously attracted attention. This technique was useful to the story since Scarlett was truly immersed, but it also served the budget since we didn’t have to hire extras, a big team or an imposing control room, etc.
How did you convince Scarlett Johansson to take part in this project?
We simply showed her the project and she liked it. She was very devoted to the character and the whole film process. Her engagement was very precious. We had to film well and fast and it was even harder for her as she had very little information about her role. When she arrived on the first day of filming, she quickly realized that her ideas about the role did not correspond to what we were about to film. This progressive discovery was planned and coherent with the journey taken by her character in the movie. This was another conceptual idea that could have failed, but Scarlett is a fabulous and committed actress. We had no trouble when asking her to do more improvised or demanding things such as the nude scenes which are the most choreographed ones in the film.
(Translated from French)