Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Movies Monthly - April - Part 2: Under the Skin

On the surface, there isn’t much to Under the Skin, Jonathan Glazer’s enigmatic, mind-teasing science fiction art film, but in comparison with all my viewings this year, including The Grand Budapest Hotel, it’s the most dazzling thing I've seen and definitely the most profound.

For the most part, the dazzle comes from Scarlett Johannson’s understated performance as an alien seductress trolling the streets of Edinburgh for human victims for some purpose left up to your imagination. Using her eyes and a soft voice that develops empathy, Johannson demonstrates she can carry what is essentially a single-performance film.

Accompanying this performance, majestic shots of the Scottish wilderness provide a dramatic setting for a mysterious alien experiment from which Johannson’s unnamed character strays as she becomes fascinated by what makes human’s click, and what makes them work under the skin. An episode on a rugged beach is the setting for a powerfully visceral shocker.

This is the kind of film that makes you scratch your head from time to time, but it perplexes in a good way. It’s the kind of film you want others to see so you can discuss its mysteries. One critic I read said that the opening images are inscrutable, but I know exactly what’s going on – though my theory might be totally antithetical to what other viewers might conclude. Under the Skin challenges the viewer to settle into its often uneventful progress and ponder what it's all about.

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