"Do you think I'm pretty?"
The story revolves around an alien who has taken human form (Scarlett Johansson) and begins to journey around Scotland, seducing men in order to consume them and their essence. However, the longer the creature inhabits her human form, the more she begins to be affected by it.
If you’ve ever wondered what the film “Species” would be like if it was a directed by Stanley Kubrick and written by David Lynch, look no further than Jonathan Glazer’s latest “Under the Skin”. “Under the Skin” is one of those rare and brilliant science fiction films that doesn’t think the audience is stupid and need everything spelled out for them. Here you are never formally told what is happening and with very little dialogue to help guide you, you’re left to piece together the story through the stunning visuals you are presented with. Based on a novel by Michael Faber, Glazer has adapted the story into one of the darkest, chilling and most original science fiction films in years reminiscent of the films of Kubrick and Nicolas Roeg. While the story, at it’s core, is very simple (find, seduce, destroy), it’s the execution of it that truly makes “Under The Skin” a unique experience. The first half of the film is literally just Johansson driving around Glasgow finding horny men, bringing them back to her “house” and trapping them in some sort of strange, black liquid in order to devour their essence. This happens over and over again almost to its detriment, however the way in which it is shot manages to maintain your interest and keeps you on the edge of your seat.
One of the reasons this process might be so enthralling is the fact that none of the men being seduced are actually actors (hence many of their almost indecipherable accents). Johansson actually drove around in a van, completely in character, and started to pick up random guys of the street. The men were completely unaware they were being filmed and that the director of “Sexy Beast” was hidden in the back. This process of filming manages to build tension quite nicely as the audience are as unfamiliar with what is happening as the men that are brought into the van, and her awkwardness at maintaining conversation with them helps Johansson to create a stilted and unsure character as the alien seductress.
This film is pure style and flair all over, showcasing how much of a visual filmmaker Glazer truly is. Along with his DOP Daniel Landin, Glazer has crafted a film that is so elegant in it’s construction of shots that it manages to both numb and disturb the audience to the horrific nature of the story that is being presented to them. The playful use of light and colour not only help encapsulate the mood of the piece but also in rare occasions bring warmth to what is overall a very bleak and dark film.
It is fair to say that “Under The Skin” is definitely not for everybody. With its lack of a traditional narrative and unconventional execution, the film is not very accessible to mainstream audiences. However, an audience willing to go on this ride will be rewarded with it’s striking visuals and odd performances all of which help to immerse you in a truly unique and original science fiction film, the likes of which haven’t been seen since “The Man Who Fell To Earth”.
8 out of 10
Reviewed by Chris Swan