I have to admit that I did not see the first minutes of the film.
Neither have I read the book therefore I will write about this film as
if it was a piece of art on its own, which it is.
Under the Skin is a new picture from Jonathan Glazer, who has also
directed Birth with Nicole Kidman and some music videos for bands like
Radiohead. The main character, alien Laura, is played by the famous
actress Scarlett Johansson.
Firstly, there is no obvious narrative in this film, because it does
not have a big significance or importance here. On the most basic level
it is a story of an alien imposing a woman and seducing men from all
over Scotland in order to drain their flesh. This is the most simple
summary of the movie. On deeper layers it is a serious study of our
society. The film's main focus is on the inside and outside of things,
the philosophy of form and material. Johansson's character is
struggling in this society. She is always portrayed as going against
the stream, she is lost in the sea of rushing people who do not want to
get deeper into things, because they know they could be hurt. This is
represented in a very subtle visual way. For instance, roses look nice
in the film, but they have spikes which make rose seller's hands bleed.
A piece of cake seems delicious, but the taste of it is disgusting. It
is always the fight between the surface and depth in this film, the
first impression and further investigation. I believe it is a very
important theme for our society where people are afraid of making
commitments or engagements, where they seek for quick pleasures, even
though they need true and honest love. The film is very strong visually
and stylistically. In order for the reader to get a glimpse of what it
is, I will say that it is sort of a combination of Kubrick, Lynch and
Kubrick - for using clever cinematic language, for all the subliminal
messages that are there like a sign on a building saying "Open 24"
which is pretty ironic as nobody in the film is truly open. The
director deliberately plays with this open and closed concept a lot.
The music is somewhat similar to Eyes Wide Shut's too and I think it is
used to the fullest in Under the Skin as a form of expression. One can
also feel the influence of 2001: A Space Odyssey with all those shots
of abstract liquids and close-ups of a human eye.
Lynch - for the dreamy, surreal sequences and the guy with the ugly
face. I see it as a direct reference to his film The Elephant Man where
he also talks about the inner beauty of a human being.
Von Trier - for the sea scene (Breaking the Waves), for the foggy
scenes in the woods (Antichrist). Like it usually happens with von
Trier's work, someone might blame this film of cheap shock value. I do
not think that is the case. The film is being a little provocative,
indeed, but at the same time all those provocations are reasoned by the
message the director wants to convey.
So one can easily feel some influence from other directors, maybe some
references, but I should say that this film does not lack originality
at all. The directing decisions and the choice of music are as strong
as the 2.5 minute close-up of Nicole Kidman's face in Birth. If you
have seen that scene, you know what you are dealing with here.
Even though, in my opinion, the images are very meaningful and
extremely powerful, Under the Skin has received a lot of contrasting
responses. Personally, I think the film is a masterpiece and it is
worth the Golden Lion, but there are people who actually hated it and
booed at it after having seen it. I cannot really understand why they
did that, but I think it is good when a piece of art inflicts emotions
and receives such different responses. It means that it is not mediocre
and that it will cause discussions, maybe some self reflection which is
always a good thing. The film suggests that I should get more into
details, analyse things carefully from beginning to end, but I will
not, just because I want other people to see it first and make their
own conclusions. But obviously Under the Skin demands a bigger analysis
than this one. I will just say that I was blown away by what I saw on
the screen and by what I heard from the speakers. I hope I will get to
see it again on the big screen. It has so much power and it is
questioning the most important, essential things about our existence -
our values as human beings. Where are we going, where are we rushing?
Maybe we need to stop and look at the beauty around us? Maybe we should
stop being superficial about others? Or maybe we are empty like
balloons ourselves? For me it is definitely the best film from the 70th
Venice Film Festival and one of the best films I have seen in my life.