Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Under the Skin - 2013 film review

In these strange and unprecedented times, I may publish a few more blog posts than usual in the hope of keeping loyal readers entertained. I'll also talk a bit more about Mortmain Hall, which is due to be published on 2 April. I had many promotional events lined up for this week and for months to come, but of course these have all fallen by the wayside. I hope to make up for this, to some extent, by other means and an extensive blog tour is planned. More about this shortly.

Now a memory from the days when authors did live events! At a literary festival in Tallinn a couple of years ago, I met the highly regarded novelist Michel Faber, who was one of the other speakers. He made some thought-provoking comments, and I decided that I'd look at one of his books, but I have to admit that I haven't as yet got round to doing so. However, I have recently caught up with a very interesting film based on one of his books, Under the Skin. It's directed by Jonathan Glazer, who co-wrote the script and who was known to me previously as director of Sexy Beast, with Ray Winstone and Ben Kingsley.

Under the Skin is, in a sense, a sci-fi movie, because the central character is an alien who takes human form. Since the particular form is that of Scarlett Johansson, she finds it easy to pick up lone men as she drives around Glasgow and rural Scotland in a white van. It's predictable that their excitement will turn to horror, and so it does. They finish up in...well, let's just say, a very, very unfortunate predicament.

This is a film that, at times, moves at a glacially slow pace. There's not much of a clear narrative thread, and you have to make your own mind up about what is going on. But it's not a spoiler, I don't think, to say that, as the film proceeds, Scarlett discovers a touch of empathy, whereas in some of the early scenes, for all her superficial charm of manner, she has none.

This is a bleak and unorthodox film, which is (I gather) very different from the book, which I definitely want to read when I get the chance. It won't appeal to everyone, and it certainly deserves to be watched more than once, because it's one of those films where you have to put in some work to discern meaning in the mysterious action. But I must say that I found it strangely compelling. It's not quite like any other film I've ever watched.

1 comment:

Bill Carlin said...

"Bleak and unorthodox" certainly sum up this weird cinematic experience, Martin. I found it particularly unsettling because I recognised so many of the locations where it was filmed. Often a movie will add glamour to the ordinary but this made the ordinary disturbing and alien. I agree that it merits a second viewing at least. Probably not during the current crisis. All the best to you and yours and thanks for your always entertaining and informative blog.