Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy McWilliams, Lynsey Taylor Mackay
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Running Time: 108 mins
Under The Skin is a British film about an alien who comes to Earth and takes the form of a young woman, and goes on the prowl in Glasgow preying on lonely, unsuspecting men.
I am almost speechless. This film is a complete masterpiece. It’s the strangest film I’ve ever seen, it’s also probably the scariest, most psychologically disturbing, and mind-bending film I’ve ever seen. Despite that, it’s one of the most mesmerising, artistically genius and thrilling films I’ve ever seen, making it simply one of the greatest.
What I was initially amazed by was the fact that, being an arty film, this wasn’t so pretentious. There are various scenes akin to those more surreal ones in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it’s never boring and pretentious, it’s incredibly complex, tense and mind-blowing at every step.
The problem with the majority of arthouse films is that they present ambiguous images for the viewer to decipher, but there’s no safety net of a decent plot if no-one gets it. Here, however, there is that safety net, and it’s an incredibly thrilling and frightening story that I can’t really reveal anything about.
That is one thing about this film: the less you know about it before watching it, the better. The trailer gives you a good demonstration of the tone and style, however knowing anything about the underlying message could completely ruin a film that you have to think about so hard from start to finish.
I’m still struggling to have the faintest idea of what this film is really about. Its surrealist and arty qualities make it incredibly ambiguous, and while it does reveal its true meaning to some extent by the end, it’s still almost impossible to tell what the real truth is.
But don’t let that put you off. While you may not get this film so much, as I did, you can still be engrossed in its bizarre story. The ambiguity adds to the mystery of the main character and the whole premise. We don’t know who this ‘alien’ (rather an unearthly being, it’s not a generic alien) really is, why it is preying on these men, and what it is thinking about.
That comes in part due to the stunning performance by Scarlett Johansson. I must admit, I’ve never been a big fan of hers as a serious actress, but this performance absolutely blew my mind. It’s almost silent, and she has to do a lot of work with her facial expressions during some of the more intense close-up shots, but the fact that she pulls it off so strongly turns her character into one of the most frightening and unpredictable of all time.
The rest of the film works very well too. The fact that it’s basically set in a Transit van in Glasgow city centre makes it feel incredibly real and convincing (along with a few hidden details), which makes it even scarier to watch, as you really feel as if any of the events could happen to anyone.
The surrealist qualities also play a big part in playing tricks with your mind. It leaves you completely in the black about what’s really going on, and its consistently ambiguous ‘outcomes’ increase the fear level by making you imagination run wild thinking about the horror that has happened.
Overall, then, this gets a 9.6, because it’s a genius piece that’s not only intriguing to follow, but incredibly scary and perfectly engrossing from start to finish.