Monday, September 22, 2014
Richly original but not for everyone, JohnnyTwoToes explains
As a huge fan of Jonathan Glazer's mob masterpiece Sexy Beast, I did not wait to catch his latest sci-fi film Under The Skin from Comcast. I purchased it on DVD and eagerly ripped open the disc from its confining encasement. I honestly think people would benefit from knowing what the plot is before they watch this leisurely paced, but beautifully shot art house film. This is DEFINITELY considered art house, too.
Scarlett Johansson is a mysterious drifter who seduces men in the Scottish countryside. She is an alien who has nefarious plans for her partners. If people know that going into this film, they might be more inclined to be patient with its rather slow pacing in spots. None of the characters are given any names and Johansson's alien shows very little mercy to her victims, at first. As the film progresses, she begins to transform into something more human though. Someone able to feel pity, sadness and ecstasy but still be confused about who she is.
Under The Skin is about one hour and forty minutes and there were times I felt it. There are long shots of mysterious men on motorcycles off in the distance who, I believe, are friends (or fellow aliens) of the female alien. Her insatiable appetite for flesh seems to keep a team of 3 motorcyclists in a constant state of searching either for her or fresh victims.
The cinematography is stunning and Johansson is truly magnificent to watch. Her performance, good looks aside, is worthy of some Oscar contention. She encompasses all of the emotions a young girl of that age would have, as I would imagine, anyway, She can be cold blooded but still be taken back with pity from a horribly disfigured young man who reveals he has never even touched a girl before. She also experiences the effects of her own lovemaking with a genuine sense of scared confusion.
The script, by Glazer and Walter Campbell based on the novel by Michel Faber is minimal on dialogue but what the characters say seems real and rather unscripted. They seem to know what to say to one another and what not to say as real people would. Glazer takes his time saying it, too.
Most people will give up on this film, to be honest. It takes a patient person who can appreciate an alien film of a different nature. Sometimes I am not that person, however in Under The Skin, there was enough to see here that I kind of enjoyed this film. The score, by first time composer Mica Levi is a mostly abrasive mix of electronics and acoustical instruments that add to the general creepiness of the landscape. There is a constant sense of isolation for the alien and I felt it, too and the ending is especially well done.
If someone was to ask me how would I describe Under The Skin, I would say it is like the film Species, only with no visual effects, per say, about half of the nudity, with virtually no violent action, no big name stars (except Ms. Johansson). Some nights I want Species. On this night I wanted Under The Skin.
After reading this review, most people will be able to make up their own minds what they want. I would put this on the same category as The Counselor; not for everyone and you have to be in the mood for a quietly moody and creepy film. But if that is what you are looking for then Under The Skin is for you. Under The Skin-*** out of 4