Monday, 31 March 2014

Ms Johansson goes walking in Scotland

Hmm. People sometimes ask me how I choose the films I go to see. Sometimes, I go and see a movie out of curiosity, a recommendation, a review or even just because it is showing at a time that suits me... (Remember, I have an unlimited pass from Cineworld.) It was the latter with Under the Skin. (If the times had suited, I would have seen 20 Feet from Stardom...)

Many of the reviews are nothing short of hyperbole: "visually stunning and deeply disturbing: very freaky, very scary and very erotic" (in my opinion, none of these adjectives apply), "grippingly eerie, intriguing and unsettling film" (nah, not really...) or even "masterpiece" (yeah...right).

Here are the adjectives I would use: pretentious, drab, moody (in a teenager kind of way), vacuous, directionless, mildly disturbing. You might have guessed by now that I did not rate this movie. Nor do many it seems: the cinema had about 4 people in it. So do not bother, unless you are a total fan of Scarlett and have to see all of her films.

So what is the leadership lesson from this cinematic creation? I can think of a few for the director and the critics who have been taken in, but that isn't what I try and do with these blogs. Is there a theme to highlight that connects to an aspect of good leadership? Hmm, are there any solid narrative threads at all? Tricky...

I think the underlying theme for me is one of desperation: this is a film about people (and aliens) driven to desperate acts, as symbolised in the beach scene. In management circles there is much talk about creating 'burning platforms' in order to generate the energy and creativity to achieve transformation. I can buy into a much of this idea and have seen it happen. However, leaders need to take great care: urgency can easily descend into desperation. The consequences then may be anything but creative or transformational.

If you are a leader intent upon setting the platform alight, do you (at least) know where the fire exits are?


This is the twenty first of my new series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.


  1. In this film, the system perspective (your delightful term) was very different to 'normal' films. At times, good leadership is using charm and persuasion to win people over. Scarlett did this to perfection. Again and again.

    I genuinely liked this film. Personally fed up with Hollywood formula movies, this one stripped the book to its bare bones and had an unsettling feel. The fact the cinema was was empty (mine too) proves Joe public simply prefers Alvin and the Chipmunks ( a film about classical leadership).

    1. I am not sure she did this again and again... and in one instance she used plain violence to 'lure' one man to his demise. Mostly she exploited the desperation (and lust) of the men she met

      But you right when you say that charm and persuasion are key elements in good leadership... although I feel a little uncomfortable with 'charm' as this can edge in duplicity.

      The film was indeed unsettling, but I have seen far more unsettling films such as Shutter Island, The Wicker Man, Schindler's List, The Shining, O Lucky Man, Clockwork Orange, The Cat People (original versions) and so on...

      And Alvin is very definitely an amazing leader!!

      Thanks for your comment.

  2. Anonymous1/4/14 10:03

    sorry if you do not rate this movie but those that matter do, that is the leaders, no democracy in cineworld

    1. Not sure that they do: the film is not exactly filling the schedules!