Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Film review: UNDER THE SKIN

Directed by Jonathan Glazer


Under The Skin is Scarlett Johansson versus the city of Glasgow. For me, a mouth-watering proposition.

This film is unsettling, bizarre, utterly fascinating. I can only imagine three types of people who would wish to see it: aliens, weirdos and movie critics. Possibly Scarlett Johansson fans, but that depends on whether they can tolerate a Glaswegian accent. As for Johansson herself, I think she should be applauded for starring in what is essentially a non-commercial project for a few left-field festivals.

The synopsis, if in fact there is any need for that, would not make too much sense. Johansson is a girl riding in a posh car through random grim Scottish streets picking up random grim (some are, indeed, very grim) Scottish guys who go for her looks like disbelieving flies would go for an open can of raspberry jam in the middle of an abandoned house. She seduces them and they ‘follow her into darkness and are submerged in an abyss of liquid’ (if you can trust Wikipedia on this one). It’s when odd becomes normal. You have to accept what you see.

Of course Johansson’s character is a twist, an allegorical statement, but there is also something almost hilarious about her driving around Scotland and trying to engage in casual conversations. It just feels so real. It’s like Johansson is genuinely bewildered by what is going on around (which is a bit like this, but without the adrenaline). Though in the end, it might not be so easy to tell – who is alien and who is not. The ending is surreal but also direct and hard-hitting and leaves little room for imagination. Imagination was what came before. 

Under The Skin is definitely a bit of a mind-fuck, but it is done with so much style and genuine, engaging oddness that you’re more than willing to hallucinate to whatever’s thrown at you. Crying infants, neurofibromatosis, empty skins. This film unsettles your senses, and does it on purpose and with a great deal of relish. It goes for your guts, whether you have them or not. Challenging and visually impressive. Smart, too. This is great cinema.  

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