In a spellbinding montage a cosmic technology makes an interface with something organic, intelligent. Voices are heard, repeating words, learning, adjusting, archiving. Something is transmogrifying, coming to Earth, a terra firma femme fatale. In a quest to consume everything, a hunger for empathy, a thirst for knowledge, a desire for intimacy, a hunt for carnality in human form. This extra-terrestrial traveler is Earthbound and destined to create trouble, as she seduces to fill a void, the void inexorably overwhelms her.
In a remarkably ambitious cinematic endeavour Jonathan Glazer, the British director of the cult classic gangster flick Sexy Beast, has taken the science fiction novel by Michel Faber and adapted it, with fellow scribe Walter Campbell, into the portrait of a doomed intergalactic siren. Paring the narrative right back, creating an atmosphere reminiscent of ciné legends Nicolas Roeg, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, even Andrei Tarkovsky. The mood is as brooding and detached as the palette is cold and tenebrous.
There is a dark magic at work, at once mesmerising with the rugged beauty of the Scottish highlands and coastline, and yet, removed and alienating as the menacing stare of a troubled stranger. Scarlett Johansson, in a career highlight, plays the beautiful creature from beyond. She has no name, just as the rest of the cast is nameless. She lures the lusty men to a decrepit old house, upstairs, where she sheds her clothes, and they shed theirs, then willingly follow, naked as the day they were born, gazing at her voluptuous figure, sinking deep down into an oily liquid blackness, finally consumed, but stored like a fly in spider’s web.
The alien siren is intent on discovering her inner human, but her body just isn’t the same. And it is the truth of her real body, beneath her satin skin, that will be her undoing. Under the Skin is a strange, slow, beguiling wander through loneliness and desire. An acquired taste for those willing to leave their sensibilities in the snow.
Under the Skin Film Review by Bryn Tilly of www.cultprojections.com