Under the Skin is the new film from Sexy Beast director, Jonathan Glazer. It’s an odd, visually spectacular science fiction horror staring Scarlett Johansson as an alien in human form.
There’s not much of a story; Johansson drives around Scotland in a white van picking up men. She then seduces them before luring them to their deaths. The film plays like an art house version of Species, but what it lacks in plot it more than makes up for in visuals. It’s stunning as well as haunting, with spectacular cinematography and dazzling special effects.
Johansson is captivating as the almost silent protagonist. She showed what she could do with just her voice in Her and now shows how she doesn’t have to talk in order to give a riveting performance. She’s seductive yet vulnerable and inquisitive as a creature learning how humans work. It is also a brave piece of acting for she is naked for what felt like a quarter of the picture.
Most of the other characters are the men who get picked out by this out of the world femme fatale. These superbly gritty performances from Scottish actors ground the picture, making the story totally believable. There are a lot of very thick accents, and it makes me wonder how well Under the Skin will do in the US, where they might even need subtitles in order to understand what on earth is happening.
Jonathan Glazer has made an extraordinary film. A science fiction horror that brings to mind 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien and even some of David Lynch’s early work yet still manages to be absolutely unique. Some may find the slow pace and peculiar atmosphere irritating, but I was enthralled by its erotic and upsetting images and by the near silent yet gripping performance from Johansson. Simply mesmerizing.
14th March 2014 (UK)
Scarlett Johansson, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Paul Brannigan