October 5, 2015

Under the Skin

108 min - Drama | Sci-Fi | Thriller

A mysterious seductress preys upon the population of Scotland.

Director: Jonathan Glazer
Stars: Scarlett Johansson

Films like this don't come around often and deserve to be experienced on a massive screen with a sound system capable of generating 200 mph vortex winds. From the first minute alone you just know that you are in store for a treat. They say there are two sorts of schools for films to follow. Almost all the films made today are focused on telling a well defined story through dialogue and narration but there is another school which tries to get away from that and instead uses the language of the visual to hint at underlying meaning. This film is most definitely a follower of this second school. It automatically brings with it echoes of films like 2001 or the Tree of Life simply because there isn't much else to compare it to. Without a doubt this is one of the most original movies of the past decade. In fact, I don't think we've ever seen something quite like this before.

It took Glazer a decade to get this out and it shows. It's a deeply personal film that doesn't care if you'll like it. Where most commercial films try to please their audience by checking the usual boxes and some artsy directors will try to meet their audience halfway, It's obvious that Glazer didn't compromise on anything but instead chose to fanatically execute his singular vision.

This is not market researched mass production which scores an "it's okay" with 90% of its audience. If a film is made for everyone, it's made for no one in particular. Art on the other hand isn't made for everyone or even anyone in particular but if you are lucky enough to be on the same wavelength as its creator, his work can connect with you in such a way that it goes well beyond simple entertainment. Sometimes a good piece can alter the way you think, making it life changing.

It's with this in mind that I can't guarantee you'll like Under the Skin but I most definitely recommend you see it. In the worst case you'll hate it, but if you are like me, you'll get to see a mindblowing masterpiece. One thing's for sure, even if you hate it, this film will get under your skin and haunt your thoughts for weeks to come.

The film itself is a truly unique and utterly alienating experience. Hidden cameras film unsuspecting people as they interact with a predatory Johansson as she stalks the streets of Glasgow. We see people go about their daily lives but from a disconnected point of view which infuses the mundane with an eerie dose of strangeness. The camera lingers on actions each and every one of us has performed many times over but seeing Johansson go through them seemingly for the first time makes you question yourself which can at times be quite unsettling.

A haunting and brooding tension simmers just below the surface throughout the entire film, only punctuated by a couple of chilling key moments where the slow pace gives way to pure shock and terror when the speed unexpectedly ramps up. It's not just the pacing that contributes to the feeling of dread. Certain scenes will quite simply nail you to the floor. Either by their macabre beauty or because you feel like a rabbit trapped in headlights. Glazer brings to the table a visionary style, effects that transcend "special", and layers of metaphor so deep you'll have a hard time keeping your head above the water...

There's also a hypnotic quality to the horror that makes it impossible for you to look away for which the score is largely responsible. It's hard to put into words just how perfect the score matches the movie. It is at times as perfectly cold and calculated as Johansson's mastery of murder, next it's completely unpredictable, jumping around as if it were a deer caught in bear trap. The only constants are its threatening and otherworldly qualities. Under the Skin - Death

The location, Scotland, perfectly suits the themes of the film. There is beauty in the bewildering chaos of its natural landscapes but also despair in its grim and desolate character. I am not going to give anything away about the film's story or what I think it means. It's much more fun to go in without having a preconceived notion of what it's all about. I wouldn't even bother with the trailer and instead go in completely fresh but if I haven't convinced you yet; Under the Skin Trailer Official - Scarlett Johansson

Do yourself a favor, go find out what it does for you.

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