The Flesh is Weak. Empathy and Becoming Human in Jonathan Glazer's "Under the Skin"

  • Colin Heber-Percy Sarum College
Keywords: theory, cinema, sacred, mask, under the skin, Jonathan Glazer

Abstract

Jonathan Glazer’s 2013 film Under the Skin offers an unsettling meditation on humanness through the eyes of an alien predator. This essay reflects on Glazer’s film by drawing it into conversation with the later phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, with Heidegger, Martin Buber, and with a number of earlier Greek thinkers who together point us towards a more complex and shared definition of ‘contemplation’ or theory. The paper asks: do films watch us as much as we watch films?

Through an exploration of the notion of the mask as a means both of disguise and of disclosure, the paper questions to what extent all human relations are masked, screened. So, Glazer’s film can be viewed as an exercise in re-imagining the role of the screen, turning us from viewers to viewed. This implication of the audience in the film’s scope leads to a concluding focus on empathy as the essential sharedness of human (and therefore of cinematic) experience.

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Published
2020-07-22
Section
Philosophy of film without theory