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).

Special Presentations

Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer

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 conclusion.

Cameron Bailey

Screenings

Mon Sep 09

Princess of Wales

Regular
10:00pm
Tue Sep 10

Scotiabank 2

Press
12:45pm
Tue Sep 10

Visa Screening Room (Elgin)

Regular
2:30pm
Thu Sep 12

Scotiabank 1

Industry
11:30am
Sun Sep 15

Ryerson Theatre

Regular
3:00pm