Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin announces itself on the screen in much the same way as does its cloaked alien protagonist. Here is a unique and perplexing cinematic UFO that hovers peculiarly and unnervingly before you.
10 years in gestation, Glazer’s third feature-length film went from long awaited to sort of forgotten about in the years leading up to its eventual arrival. From the series of abstract images at the beginning that contort in ways that are utterly divorced from shapes and movements that we’re used to as humans, the film superbly sets up its alien vision of earth.
Following Scarlett Johansson’s nameless seductress as she prowls the streets of Glasgow, we see her scope out potential male bait. She lures them into her van and drives them to her secluded cottage. From here, in an electrifying repeated ritual, Johansson’s extra-terrestrial siren draws these unwitting Glaswegians slowly into a viscous black pool, where they’re slowly drowned.
The fascinating and inimitably powerful heart of this film is its ability to make you look afresh at human behaviour. Under The Skin’s camera makes our own species look foreign, peculiar and alien in nature. Glazer achieved this by shooting as much as possible of Under The Skin in secret, so most of Johansson’s encounters are with ordinary people who really are just going about their everyday lives. This creates a jarring naturalism to a film and genre that’s historically so sensationalist.
At no point does one feel comfortable watching this film. The image of an abandoned baby screaming for his parents in the dead of night on a sequestered beach is particularly searing. This sense of discomfort bleeds seamlessly into both the film’s horrific and its banal moments. Johansson catching a bus in the Highlands is skillfully imbued with the same tone of murky disconnection as is her bashing in a man’s skull with a rock.
A swathe of special features on this DVD/Blu-Ray release help illuminate the genuinely unique process behind the film’s production. Interestingly, lots of Glazer’s best footage was rendered unusable when certain people took umbrage with having been filmed against their knowledge, refusing to give permission for it to be used in the film.
Luckily for Glazer, and for us, there’s so much that’s head-cockingly fascinating about this film that it’s hard to imagine this lost footage making a jot of difference to the overall product. By turns alluring, sexy, scary, peculiar and bold, Jonathan Glazer’s return to the big screen is a triumphant one. Under The Skin is one of the finest Science Fiction films since 2001: A Space Odyssey, and that’s saying something.
Under the Skin is out on Blu Ray and DVD on Monday 14th July, 2014.
The Under the Skin special features include a series of behind-the-scenes interviews with personnel involved with:
Camera . Casting . Editing . Locations . Music . Poster Design . Production Design . Script. Sound . VFX