Weird, unsettling and beautiful, “Under The Skin” takes huge risks with its mixing of science fiction and thriller forms.
When it works, it’s provocative. Even when it annoys the viewer – there are very slow scenes – distinctive visual touches command attention.
Michel Faber’s Whitbread award-winning book is about an extraterrestrial who comes to northern Scotland to get human flesh. It’s a delicacy on her home planet.
Just one strand of the original tale is left here. You have to really, really like Scarlett Johansson because the camera is on her all the time. Despite her two dialogue coaches, her Londonish accent slips at times, but you won’t care about this like I did.
As one of my companions said, Johansson is A-list actress who can get any role she wants, so taking on a British small offbeat story and proving she is a brilliant actress is quite an incredible risk for her to take.
Scarlett spends a lot of time driving a white man and picking up random men. She walks through shopping centres and forests. Glasgow and assorted other northern locations look threatening and alienating, yet normal. It’s an odd mix of regular daily events and sudden leaps to strange transformations.
Add motorcycles, dark houses and weird bus trips and it all makes for a peculiar but compelling tale. Long stretches have no dialogue, but weird sounds are heard throughout. I would have liked more of the shimmering effects and less of the wandering around.
Lots of male and Scarlett nudity is curiously unsexy.
A joint British Film Institute and Film 4 production, it’s taken Jonathan Glazer (“Sexy Beast” and “Birth”) more than ten years and multiple changes of script before this version was released.
Does it work? The audience at Stratford East Picturehouse all seemed rapt in it. It’s making deep statements about the nature of modern life and is undoubtedly a work of genius, but I have no idea what it all means.
You need to see it because everyone will be speaking about it, everywhere. The visual effects are splendid. Does anyone have any idea of what it is all about? Please let me know. I am sure to come up with some sort of theory, given time.