Under The Skin, like most truly great films, is the work of a director with a vision. Jonathan Glazer has been planning the film meticulously for years and he has only made two features before it- Sexy Beast and Birth. The film is very loosely based on Michel Faber’s novel of the same name but many key plot points are very different between film and novel.
Scarlett Johansson plays a nameless alien who preys on men across the highways near Glasgow in Scotland. She brings the men she has pulled back to her place and they sink into a black ooze and their flesh is harvested. She is under order from another mysterious alien who is seen as a male motorcyclist, after they arrive on earth they morph into their first victims.
The majority of the alien’s interactions with humans were actually shot using hidden cameras and it wasn’t until after they shot the scenes they were aware in were in a film. Scarlett Johansson has rarely been better and it’s her finest work since Lost in Translation. She is channelling David Bowie’s performance in The Man Who Fell to Earth to an extent and the film crew jokingly called it “The Women Who Fell to Earth”. It’s somewhat ingenious casting not unlike Bowie before her because somebody that famous is almost an alien herself. It’s also worth noting the resemblance Johansson’s character has to Mick Jagger’s character in Nicholas Roeg’s Performance which he co-directed but later directed The Man Who Fell to Earth.
The film has been constantly compared to Stanley Kubrick’s work and it’s a fair comparison. The opening birth scene is definitely reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey and the film’s feel has echoes of the coldness that is associated with him if unfairly. It also brings to mind the body-horror of Cronenberg but the style is minimalism at its finest, which reminds me of the approach Nicholas Winding Refn took with Drive. The score is also a beautiful unnerving industrial drone by Mica Levi, which is as haunting and disturbing as the images on screen.
The film is full of surrealistic imagery and tries its best to push cinema as an art form and succeeds. This will alienate the mass majority of the public and many critics also hated the film. It’s a truly unique film that comes around so rarely and I doubt I will see another film as remarkable this year.
Sci-fi, Drama, Thriller
BD/DVD Release Date:
14th July 2014 (UK)
Scarlett Johansson,Jeremy McWilliams, Lynsey Taylor Mackay, Paul Brannigan
Buy: Under The Skin [Blu-ray]  / [DVD]