Scarlett Johansson stars as a voracious alien seductress who scours remote highways and backroads for human prey, in this sci-fi thriller from director Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast, Birth).
Under the Skin
Fans of Jonathan Glazer's Sexy Beast and Birth have been anticipating Under the Skin with a yearning usually reserved for superhero franchises. Based on Michel Faber's acclaimed novel, the story's premise is perfectly suited to a director known for compression, focus, and cool shocks.
On Scotland's lonely back roads, a beautiful woman (Scarlett Johansson also appearing at the Festival in Don Jon) stalks unwitting men. Her identity and her motives unclear, she is simply, and quite literally, a sexual threat. Her eyes deadened but alert, she prowls night streets and deserted locales in a white van, seeking male victims. More could be said about the plot, but it's best to allow Under the Skin to reveal itself. From its arresting first image — a pure, white pinpoint of light — it expands outward to become an increasingly absorbing mystery. It's also a Rorschach test for everything one might fear about relations between men and women.
Johansson is sometimes cast for her
physical sensuality, and Glazer makes
ample use of that here. But the film is
anything but lascivious. Having directed
landmark music videos for Radiohead and
Massive Attack, he was known as a supreme
stylist even before his feature films. Here,
he offers shades of Kubrick and Hitchcock
in his depiction of sexuality, capturing a
cool, predatory impulse rather than simple
heat. For that matter, Under the Skin shows
little interest in simply arousing the audience,
be they enamoured of Glazer, fantasy
fiction, or Johansson. It proceeds at its
own rhythm, accumulating one eerie detail
on top of another, serving up sometimes
baroque encounters between predator and
prey, pushing inevitably towards its disturbing