With the exception of perhaps UPSTREAM COLOUR, Jonathan Glazer has delivered in his third feature (after SEXY BEAST and BIRTH) one of the most polarising movie experiences of recent years - and perhaps many more to come. If you like your science fiction ambiguous, by turns (and sometimes simultaneously) beautiful and creepy, you might see a classic in UNDER THE SKIN. If you find the likes of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH slow, frustrating exercises in aloofness, then give this a wide berth.
Scarlett Johansson plays an alien in human form who lures men to their deaths, seemingly as part of a process to plant more of her species into the entirely unsuspecting human population. She cruises the city streets and country roads of Scotland in an anonymous van, carefully vetting potential victims to make sure they won’t be missed. The mission begins to go awry though when her curiosity for the many facets of the human condition gets the better of her.
Glazer keeps his story’s trail of crumbs so sparse that at times we can barely be sure of what is real and what is imagined, whether what we see is intended to be taken literally or as metaphor; is Johansson’s Laura even really an alien? Or is this an experience in alienation? Raising more questions than it answers serves to further amplify the mood, and rest assured that’s very much the intention. Don’t sit there waiting for a handsome, bespectacled scientist to appear and start filling in the (vast) blanks – just make of the story what you will, and enjoy the trip.
UNDER THE SKIN is released March 14 in the UK, April 4 in the USA and May 29 in Australia.