Close Up

21 July 2018: Under the Skin


Under the Skin
Jonathan Glazer
2013 | 108 min | Colour | Digital

"Jonathan Glazer’s protracted gestation (nine years) in bringing Michael Faber’s cult novel down to earth and into festivals (theatres would be a reach, as distribution could prove a challenge for this anomaly) signals a perfectionist at work or a project better off abandoned, and Under The Skin equivocally bears out both possibilities. Ostensibly science fiction in spirit, the narrative as such begins in a state of milky galactic twilight – diaphanous spheres pulsing to spectral breaths, signifying extraterrestrial transmission of sorts – before descending to the Scottish countryside, where a female corpse is dutifully extracted from a bog by a brooding motorcyclist. In a white-light chamber resembling an off-hours James Turrell installation, the protagonist-alien loosely embodied by Johansson swaps herself into a new skin (or at least the deceased’s tights and heels) and embarks by white cargo van into Glasgow’s ashen streets and the Scottish highlands looking for male flesh to export." – Jay Kuehner

"While Under the Skin purports to ponder mankind as regarded by an objective, alien gaze, the movie is also a documentary portrait of its wildly objectified star. Ms. Johansson is a sacred monster. What makes the movie most uncanny is the knowledge that her sexy vampire is not a man-hungry femme fatale but an implacable, agendered It." – J. Hoberman

Part of our Face of Another programme