Director: Jonathan Glazer
MPAA Rating: R
Film Pulse Score: 8/10
There is something very alien about Jonathan Glazer’s film adaptation of Michel Faber’s novel Under the Skin. It is at once strange and foreign. It contains striking imagery, people with heavy accents, characters who exhibit peculiar behavior and a pervading level of creepiness. The film like the novel can be difficult to categorize. Is this a horror movie? Science-fiction? A psychological thriller? It will certainly be a film that may try one’s patience but if you stay with it, pay attention and be an active viewer you may find it taking you on an unexpectedly thought-provoking journey.
We’re not letting the cat of the bag when we say the film centers around an alien amongst us. While not flat out saying so the events that open the film pretty much leave no other conclusion that we are not alone. However, the events that transpire after the first five to ten minutes of the film are best left to be discovered by the viewer and as previously mentioned you want to pay attention.
It will be a challenge at first to follow the thick Scottish accents, which are not subtitled, but after a time it becomes easy to follow. You are able to make out words and phrases that will help set up a moment or provide a detail. The film moves at its own pace but never feels slow. This is very much an art house science-fiction film. Glazer gradually doles out information as the film progresses to the point where you have an idea of what’s going on but once you’re caught up he switches gears. There is plenty of nudity in this film but it is handled tastefully and is never gratuitous. In fact, you may barely even notice it because you are trying to piece together just what the hell is going on at that moment. Glazer wisely doesn’t even reveal the how and why but leaves it up to the viewer to draw their own conclusions. Mica Levi provides an evocative score that at times punctuates the emotion and tension especially during certain scenes. Daniel Landin’s cinematography captures the Scottish highlands and city lowlands quite well.
Scarlett Johansson is very effective as the alien visitor. She exhibits human behavior but you never get the sense that she is not of this world. However, in events that transpire later in the film she does a fine job of playing her duality of being alien and human. Yes, she does get naked in this film but she handles it just as her character would. It is of no importance. There are a number of male actors who populate this film, nearly all of them required to be naked, but none leave a lasting impression as much as Adam Pearson’s performance. Unfortunately, we can’t go it to why as that would be a significant spoiler. We’ll just leave it at you will know him when you see him.
Glazer has directed and co-written, with Walter Campbell, a haunting and thought provoking piece of science-fiction. It’s a fascinating look at all facets of human nature as seen through the eyes of someone not of this world. While it contains elements that are familiar to genre fans it is an effective concoction that is original and profound. It’s not a film for everyone but for those willing to make the effort this is a trip worth taking.