After I finished the book Under the Skin from Michael Faber, I sat there in stunned silence for several minutes before rapidly turning to the internet for others as floored as I had been. I quickly found that a movie was in the works and beginning in June 2012, began to wait. Last night as the credits rolled for Jonathan Glazers’ ten year master piece it was several minutes before I could pick the contents of my brain off the floor and collect my thoughts to form a sentence that could begin to express my opinion. From the first moment I was enthralled. In a manner that I haven’t seen since Stanley Kubricks’ The Shining, I was thrown into this world, the one that we all live in and yet are completely unaware of. What does it mean to be human? Is it our emotions? Love? Hate? Greed? It cannot simply be our bodies. As in The Shining, Under the Skin used ambiguous visual stimuli coupled with abstract, unrealistic moments to slit open viewers’ security and let it leak out on the floor. As for Scarlett Johansson, one can expect a performance that leaves you immersed in a bath of confusion, disassociation and empathy. It is impossible to completely identify with any of the characters in the film and yet at the end, as you watch everything crumble into oblivion, there is a distinct sense of loss. Perhaps this was Glazers goal, to evoke a performance that would question humanity and then remind us that beneath it all we are simply a fragile, vulnerable mass.
The entire viewing experience, from the first moment, is set to Mica Levi’s superb score which potentially had the most power of viewer emotion within the entire movie. Like The Shining , it was mainly repetitious with simple variations throughout, but somehow managed to nudge my heart up into speeds that qualified it jumping out of my chest.
In a time where science fiction films are for the most part summer blockbusters filled with CGI and almost completely surface level plot concepts, this minimalist and abstract creation emphasizes human thought in order to make sense of what has occurred. There is no one to spoon feed you globs of themes or character archetypes, there is only our flawed perceptions and perhaps that is the very answer to what Under the Skin asks of its’ viewers.
10/10. Not gory in the slightest, if one is concerned about that sort of thing. Favorite film I’ve seen this year and that outranks Dallas Buyers, Her, Llewyn Davis, etc. So that’s saying something. Phenomenal.