Written for RAF News Jan 2013
Scarlett Johansson assumes the role of an alien in human form that observes the surrounding life in Glasgow; stalking and seducing understandably eager young lads and trying to understand what it is to be human. Director Jonathan Glazer, who debuted with Sexy Beast, returns to cinema with his first film since 2004: a conceptual science fiction that can at times become hard to watch.
Under the Skin is shot primarily through a series of hidden cameras that capture Johansson observing and interacting with the real townsfolk of Glasgow. We are thrown deep into the overwhelming sensory experience of shopping centres and crowds leaving a football stadium. Having adopted the voyeuristic alien’s perspective, these familiar experiences, accompanied by amplified sound, can be just as unsettling as the more experimental style that will endow the more sinister elements of the film. Implementing a style that intends to immerse and unsettle, Glazer effectively blurs the line between film and reality.
This siren like alien drives around in her van, a score of screeching drones foreboding the fate of the horny Glaswegians who enter. Forward and alluring, paired with the fact that she looks just like Scarlett Johansson, this succubus gives the young men very little chance to escape: seductively undressing and coaxing them to a rather surreal demise.
The jumps from documentary style footage to the constructed scenes that feature more abstract visual effects, align you with Johansson as you become alienated and long for something to hold onto. There is not much dialogue and, with a central performance that is intentionally rigid and non-responsive, the film can drag along at times, particularly in the second half.
Under the Skin is a little more experimental in style, but it is truly an original film with moments of utter brilliance.