REVIEW SYNOPSIS: Haunting, disturbing, and often incredibly challenging, director Jonathan Glazer adapts Michael Faber’s cult horror novel to the screen, with Scarlett Johansson delivering an amazing performance as an alien preying on unsuspecting males.
SYNOPSIS: An alien takes the body of a beautiful woman and travels Scotland to pick up strange men.
PROS: Scarlett Johansson, almost perfectly inhabiting the role of a predatory alien; Jonathan Glazer’s atmospheric, surreal direction, especially in the use of guerilla filmmaking techniques; screenplay by Glazer and William Campbell that invites the audience to fill in the gaps.
CONS: Perhaps too obscure and confounding for some audiences.
How strange the world must actually look to alien eyes: the planes that stretch into landscape and horizon; the contrast of light and shadow that finally settle into color; the shapes that cohere into flora and fauna; the right angles that shape themselves into buildings. Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin opens with abstract geometries on tableaus of whites and blacks, culminating in a view of a woman’s (Scarlett Johansson) silhouette in a completely white field undressing the corpse of a streetwalker found somewhere on the shoulders of a Scottish road by a biker (or what we believe to be a biker). She stops to watch an ant crawl along her finger, studying its head and compound eye. The close-up provides the only real suggestion of these beings’ nature.
Dressed and roaming the streets in a white van, the woman — the movie never names her — scans the sidewalks in search of…what, exactly? Prey? Seen from her ominous point of view, that seems the obvious answer. The sounds of the engine, of crowds, of rain, all at times overpower. Glazer foregrounds the background noise, giving us the experience of a being with fresh ears.