The woman who fell to Earth – ★★★★★
With Jonathan Glazer’s third feature film he hasn’t only made his best film to date, he’s made one of the best films of the last ten years. Under the Skin concerns an alien who has taken on a female form (Scarlett Johansson) and appears to be on a mission of sorts to lure men to their death for some unknown reason. It sounds like the plot to a bad sci-fi B-movie, but with Glazer behind the camera the results are nothing short of spectacular.
Scarlett Johansson’s performance is superb, portraying an alien unfamiliar with the world and its inhabitants. She conveys great clinical wonder at the human race, especially the males. Her feelings change from a cold curiosity to love and finally to fear. She must alter from sleek seductress to an unemotional hunter in the blink of an eye leaving her prey dazed and lost forever. This is by far the best performance of her career to date.
The shooting style Glazer used was largely secret filming, hence why Scarlett has a big large mop of curly black hair making her look not that unlike Cillian Murphy from Breakfast on Pluto. Permission was sought from the men after the scenes were completed, a risky strategy but one that ultimately paid off. This left a lot of the work in Johansen’s hands as she had to pick which men to approach adlibbing the conversation in order to entice them home.
The scenes that result from this cat and mouse between Johansson and her prey are unlike any you will have seen committed to camera before. Underscored with the haunting music of English 26yr old composer Mica Levi, these scenes will have you gazing in wonder while gripping onto your seat. The beach scene involving a young baby is chilling to endure, yet excellently illustrates the genius of Glazer as in this one scene he captures the alien character of Johansson.
Michel Faber’s novel from 2000 is the source material and sets the action in Scotland which Glazer sticks to providing the perfect background with its mountains, lakes and unforgiving sea. There are many questions posed about sexuality, identity, male-female relations and how mankind sees itself within the world.
No doubt Under the Skin will divide audiences and spark debate but I can’t help but feel that if Stanley Kubrick was alive today this is the type of film he would be making.
In selected Irish cinemas on March 14th 2014