Under the Skin is one of the best films I have seen in many years in large part because Mica Levi’s score is so effective in evoking the terror of confronting something truly alien and unknowable, and in pushing the viewer to see our world through the perception of an indifferent alien. Much of it is ambient, but the most powerful parts are variations on a melody rendered in scratching, trilling, oddly tuned strings. You can hear a version of the primary theme for the first two thirds of the film at the 4:14 minute mark of this track – it’s beautiful, but also something that feels off and vaguely grotesque.
Levi’s mostly atonal music is like a saw that severs the listener from a sense of recognizable humanity – much of it inspires a feeling of numbness that is different from how numbness usually comes across in music. It’s very alert, and very cerebral – the brain is active, but the emotions are dead. There are emotional cues in the music, but it feels scrambled somehow, or modulated in ways that signal a completely different frame of reference for experience.
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