'Under The Skin'
(Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy McWilliams, Dougie McConnell, Kevin McAlinden, et al / DVD / R / 2014 / Lionsgate)
Overview: A female drives a van through the roads and streets of Scotland seducing lonely men! Yup, that's just about all you need to know without spoiler alerts coming in!
DVD Verdict: You have never seen a movie even remotely like this, trust me. Well, save for (perhaps) the just-released 'Enemy.') Indeed, it's been a long time coming. Ten years in development, to be precise, and I've followed the saga throughout My interest was based on my love of the source novel by Michel Faber which is a modern classic.
Clearly the 10 year development period demonstrated the difficulty with which the novel would translate to the screen but, in my opinion, it was worth the effort, and the wait.
When I heard that it was in Jonathon Glazer's hands ('Birth' and 'Sexy Beast') I was encouraged, and when I found out that Scarlett Johansen was to play the central character Isserley (unnamed in the movie, but credited as Laura for some reason) my heart skipped a beat.
I was not disappointed, but let's make no mistake, this is a curious movie. My wife was bored to tears. Her disjointed quotes thereafter of "Tedious. Thoughtless. Empty. A failure in all ways" were acknowledged, but I disagreed entirely. It's fair to say that the pace is laconic, but it's a thing of beauty and a movie packed full of ideas, unique special effects and greatness.
If you haven't read the novel you might be forgiven for asking what the hell is going on in this story and, yes, there are elements of it that are fully explored. The long section of the movie where Isserley combs the streets of Glasgow, looking for her victims, with the help of hidden cameras bringing a documentary feel to the whole proceeding, is long and a little repetitive. But it's necessary to show the exhaustion of her task and her eventual disintegration.
What's more, it does not paint the city in an entirely positive light. To that end Creative Scotland should be commended for supporting it. It's a movie packed with visual metaphor. There are some moments of horror but they are far from gratuitous and all completely emotionless which is to be expected given that Isserley is an alien, devoid of emotion, sent to earth to farm unattached males for her home planet (not that you'd work that out).
From the opening sequence in which Isserley's eyes are created, to replicate humans', the imagery is breathtakingly disconcerting. It's underpinned by an outstanding soundtrack by Mica Levi.
Johansonn is magnificent. Isn't she always? She is brave to take on a role this opinion dividing, and she manages to exude a total lack of emotion throughout in such a way that, unbelievably, you kind of sympathise with her role as human culler.
Glazer is magnificent. But he always is. Birth is a much underrated movie and anyone who saw his debut, Sexy Beast, cannot fail to love the guy. This is a great movie. Rammed to the rafters with original thought. It's just a great pity so many of you will dislike it so much. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
"The Making of Under The Skin" Featurette