Directed by Jonathan Glazer and set in Glasgow and its surrounds, this film starts with a white dot in the centre of a black screen and there follows a short sequence which suggests planets, satellites, eclipses and perhaps even the creation of an eye. It suggests these things without being explicit or clear on the exact events, which is to become the manner for the rest of the film. Subsequently we see a motorbike rider clearly on a mission, stopping by the side of a road to retrieve the limp body of a woman from a ditch and load her into a transit van. Next we see another, otherworldly woman (played by Scarlet Johannson) standing over the limp body, who confusingly appears to resemble her exactly. She removes and dons her clothing whilst the body sheds a tear.
If this opening sequence intrigues you then you’re going to enjoy what follows, if it frustrates you or appears deliberately obtuse then you’re probably not.
The performance of Scarlet and the fantastic soundtrack manage to imbue long sections in the first half of the film (which essentially involve a woman driving a van around Glasgow) with intrigue, menace, style and a real feeling of originality. This is not an easy watch. It has a real haunting quality and there are a couple of quite nasty moments, but these moments aren’t just there for shock or to try and provoke a response, they are there for a deeper reason and to show how your opinion changes as you get more information or your perspective alters. A film that gets you at different points siding with and against your species is managing something interesting.
Despite the occasional use of the annoying Hollywood acting method of simply saying nothing in response to other characters, this is bold and adventurous filmmaking. Not perfect but it stays with you.
4 on 5
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Staring: Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy McWilliams, Doughie McConnell, Kevin McAlinden, Adam Pearson, Paul Branigan, Kryštof Hádek
UK Release: 14th March 2014
[TAGS Under the skin, film review, Glasgow, Scarlett Johansson, Alien, Jonathan Glazer, motorbike, motorcycle, transit van, pickup, Jeremy McWilliams, Doughie McConnell, Kevin McAlinden, Adam Pearson,
Paul Branigan, Kryštof Hádek]