Hi, Bryan Here….
It’s been thirteen years since Jonathan Glazer graced us with a feature film. The last one he made was ‘Sexy Beast‘ that starred Ben Kingsley, and it received some Oscar nominations. Before that film, he brought us the film ‘Birth‘ that starred Nicole Kidman. With that aside, Glazer is known for his compelling and amazing visual style in the music video business.You might not know it, but you have probably seen Glazer’s work. I’m not sure why Glazer has spent thirteen years looking for another feature film project, but for whatever the reason is, his choice of ‘Under The Skin‘ is pretty spectacular – visually speaking.
This film is based off of Michel Faber’s 2000 novel of the same name, but is only very loosely based on the book, It deviates very far from what was originally written, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but in this case, it is. Glazer gives us an original and fresh take on the sci-fi/alien genre, but takes a Kubrickian approach to it with big similarities to ‘2001: A Space Odyssey‘ in regards to how it’s shot and the lack of dialogue. Glazer also drops us off in the middle of everything, but explains nothing during its near two-hour runtime, whereas the novel had a lot of reason, motive, depth, meaning, and psychological aspects to spark conversation. I know it sounds like I didn’t enjoy this movie. On the contrary, I very much did, but I also am a big fan of pure visual movies with little to no dialogue. If you enjoy watching a film that is so hypnotically beautiful, bizarre, and over-your-head with very little motive, explanation, and dialogue, then you will probably eat this sci-fi film up. If not, you might want your money back.
The film starts out in a white blur as we see an eye being constructed into focus when we cut to strange lights in the sky followed by a motorcycle rider picking up a dead girl off the side of the road. She is brought to this strange lab where we see another woman put on her clothes. This is the woman (Scarlett Johansson), or as we come to find out, an actual alien from another planet. From this moment on, we are in some sort of pattern of this alien-woman’s life, as she drives a big white van around Scotland, asking male pedestrians for directions and engaging in small-talk with them.
She eventually offers them a ride to wherever they are going, but they never arrive. Instead, this woman who is now naked with her male companion, leads them into a very dark room as the male victims walk deeper into a literal black liquid to completely disappear. This happens several times, and we can only speculate that she is doing this to keep her alien race at ease, but again, nothing is explained in the slightest. On one of these outings and perhaps the most sadistic part of the film shows the woman walking on the beach, only to witness a woman go after her dog in the ocean when the current becomes to choppy. When she doesn’t immediately return, her husband goes in after her, leaving their new born baby crying on the rocks. Another male spectator sees this all happen and goes to rescue the father. And I guess to show that this alien creature has no human features, she kills the man and leaves the child to die on the rocks. It was all very haunting.
But something interesting occurs when the woman takes another male victim into the deep black liquid mass and witnesses what happens to them. She starts to become aware of her body and then meets a man who could double as the Elephant Man. This makes her question herself and possibly realize that she and this human species might not be that much different after all, although we are never given an explanation, but only see how she looks at herself in the mirror.
Glazer really never pushes the story to evolve or move forward so much as he delivers a stunning visual. I’m not sure on why he chose to scrap the great story from the book and just tell this visual tale of an out of planet alien interacting with humans, but I think his choice might deter even the most seasoned of movie goers. Johansson is quite spectacular here as she is in everything. Yes, you will get to see her completely naked often in the film, but Glazer made her look like a normal girl here, and not the beauty she really is and as we’ve seen her before. She has jet black hair and looks more homely in this movie than anything else I’ve seen her in. But she is damn good in this role. Now I really enjoyed this movie, but I imagine some of you out there will disagree.
3.5 out of 5 Stars