Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman Revealed
The Inside Story Of Sideshow Collectibles
Guardians Of The Galaxy Review
Nick Frost:
My Movie Life

The World's End star's pick of the flicks
Promotion: Destiny Awaits
Win a limited edition PS4 and a copy of Destiny
Empire Blogs
Words From The Wise

Back to all blogs Comment Now

Venice 2013: Under The Skin

Posted on Thursday September 5, 2013, 08:09 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
Venice 2013: Under The Skin

Jonathan Glazer’s third film received a sort-of kicking at the now awards-predicting Telluride film festival, where its presence as some sort of special “preview” in advance of its Venice world premiere will forever put off producers, notably British ones, from ever doing that kind of thing again. The reviews from that fest, notably from Variety, braced us for the worst, but most critics were pleasantly surprised when the film surfaced on the Lido.  While Under The Skin is certainly difficult, sometimes impenetrably so, it joins a burgeoning number of films – this year alone – that deal in abstracts and do not give a flying fuck about commercial considerations. It’s perhaps not as haunting as Only God Forgives, arguably not as frustrating as Upstream Colour, and definitely not as psychedelic as A Field In England. But this is definitely a significant movie, British or not, and there are certainly going to be repercussions – good ones – from it.

At the core of the film is Scarlett Johansson’s nameless central character; we see her at the beginning taking the clothes from a dead woman’s back and putting them on. From here, she gets into a van and begins a tour of the Glasgow area, where she engages local men in flirty conversation (conducted, it must be said, in a very good English accent). I’m not sure if this is spoiler territory or not, but it becomes creepily clear that this woman is not of this world, as the men discover when what they think will be a sexual fantasy come true turns out to be something terrifying and deadly. The woman goes through this procedure several times, but finally something changes in her. Quite what is hard to say, but at this point the film changes direction, with the woman disappearing from the “handlers” who seem to control her and going distinctly off the grid.

Glazer has said repeatedly that he wanted this story to show the world through “alien eyes”, and that is exactly what his film does best. The real world is shown in crisp digital, making full use of the non-celluloid clarity of the image, yet when the story dictates it, Glazer makes the leap into exquisite and astonishing fantasy, mostly in the scenes in which the woman’s victims meet their hair-raising end. Without having read the book, it’s hard to say for sure what the film is ‘about’, but it does seem that Glazer has fashioned an interesting essay about the nature of species. We never really get to know who or what the woman is, but we do see that in her involvement with mankind she does start to go native, developing curiosity, empathy and finally humanity. Is it purely mimetic? Or something spiritual? That’s a big question, and the film handles it with powerful understatement.

Indeed, there is something quite exquisite and perfect in the casting of Scarlett Johansson alone, herself an anomalous creature whether shopping in the fluorescent hubbub of Boots or tripping over in amid the crowds on the pavement of Sauciehall Street. She plays the part with good grace, since the character has no character arc, no understandable motive and, from the look of things, very little in the way of personal comfort. But against the odds both she and Glazer have created an affecting story that does speak to the soul, a poetic journey of discovery that completely conveys the protagonist’s otherness.

The average Scarlett Johansson fan will likely hate it, and even admirers of Glazer’s previous work (Sexy Beasts, Birth) are not guaranteed an easy ride. But this is a bold and sometimes visually breathtaking piece of punk-art cinema that gives a lot of food for thought, a trip through dark matters to inspire the kinds of thoughts and fears that usually only ever come to us in nightmares.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Login or register to comment.

Comments

1 Manfrendshensindshen
Posted on Thursday September 5, 2013, 15:51
I'm glad that Glazer's finally back on the big screen.

Judging by the review, he seems to move away from narrative norms with each successive movie. Sexy Beast wasn't particularly challenging, Birth was quite ambitious in telling some intangible story aspects in a pretty traditional stylistic framework (has there ever been a better Kubrick homage, in terms of sheer craft?) - and now this seems like a complete break with established cinematic storytelling methods.

Being a world-class commercials director probably lends this freedom to pursue a career contrary to what we've come to expect. He certainly isn't selling out...

Log in below, or register to post comments
Username:
Password:
Remember Me:

CATEGORIES

Empire States (439)

Under The Radar (317)

Infinite Lives (92)

Small Screen (57)

Words From The Wise (35)

Cannes 2011 (28)

Off The Wire (24)

Comic-Con 2010 (21)

Casting Couch (2)

Oscars 2011 (1)


RECENT POSTS

Lego The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game Preview
By Ali Plumb

The Return Of Max Payne
By Ali Plumb

Empire's Modern Warfare 3 Multiplayer Survival Guide
By Ali Plumb

In Search Of The Ultimate Xbox Controller
By James Dyer

Hands on with El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
By Ali Plumb

Japanese gaming hero Suda 51 on his latest, Shadows Of The Damned
By Ali Plumb

Hands On: Razer Onza
By James Dyer

Empire Sits Down With The Portal 2 Writers, Gets Worryingly Excited
By Ali Plumb

Movie Karaoke, Anyone? Yoostar 2 Can Turn You Into Arnold Schwarzenegger... Kind Of
By Ali Plumb

Have You Seen The Awe-Inspiring Dead Island Trailer Yet?
By Ali Plumb


RECENT COMMENTS

Would it Work: A Legend of Zelda Movie?
"It would be hard to make the movie to what fans, such as myself, would expect, which means expectati"  Alixis93
Read comment

E3 2013: David Cage On Beyond: Two Souls
"Very excited about this game. played their previous PS3 game "Heavy Rain" which was unique"  Okester
Read comment

E3 2013: Electronic Arts
""As the event began properly, a bombastic war-themed trailer proved to be a genius parody of th"  Film2012
Read comment

Lego The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game Preview
"I am ridiculously excited by the hope that I may have this game wrapped and with my name on it under"  MD3
Read comment

Would it Work: A Legend of Zelda Movie?
"hay look at this these guys are making a Legend of Zelda movie!!! https://www.fac"  link2point0
Read comment

Would it Work: A Legend of Zelda Movie?
"My god, I've been planning this of so long. YES it will work. And I plan to get my ideas where they "  Thinking_fanatic
Read comment

Would it Work: A Legend of Zelda Movie?
"im 50/50 on it because it has a good storyline but it depends on the game its going to copy or if th"  No_1ups
Read comment

The Return Of Max Payne
"I absolutely love the first two Max Payne games (and recently downloaded the first one - for free - "  Draven Cage
Read comment

Would it Work: A Legend of Zelda Movie?
"Maybe write a book first of a really good screen play and see how that goes."  welshcelt
Read comment

Would it Work: A Legend of Zelda Movie?
"...possibly. I think you would have to split one game up though in to 2 maybe 3 movies to get the fu"  welshcelt
Read comment


POPULAR POSTS

Have You Seen The Awe-Inspiring Dead Island Trailer Yet?
21 comments

The New Xbox: Slim, Sleek And Silent
7 comments

Red Dead Redemption Goes To The Movies
7 comments

Empire at E3: The Return of Goldeneye
3 comments

Empire Sits Down With The Portal 2 Writers, Gets Worryingly Excited
2 comments

Empire at E3: The Nintendo Round-up
2 comments

In Search Of The Ultimate Xbox Controller
1 comments

Empire's Modern Warfare 3 Multiplayer Survival Guide
1 comments

The Return Of Max Payne
1 comments

Lego The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game Preview
1 comments


BLOGGERS
Damon Wise (297)
Helen O'Hara (167)
James Dyer (86)
Amar Vijay (71)
Ali Plumb (56)
James White (29)
Phil de Semlyen (19)
Owen Williams (15)
Ally Wybrew (2)
Ben Kirby (1)
Ian Nathan (1)
Dan Jolin (1)
David Parkinson (1)

SPECIAL FEATURE
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time EMPIRE READERS' POLL: THE 301 GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME
You turned out in your hundreds and thousands, and here are the results... Browse the full list


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
Everything You Need To Know About The Dragonriders Of Pern
The lowdown on Warner Bros. new fantasy sci-fi

A Pocket Guide To Game Of Thrones’ New Cast Members
Know your Doran Martell from your Nym Sand

Empire's The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies Covers Are Here
Bard The Bowman or Smaug The Magnificent?

Directors Special: Peter Hyams Goes Film-By-Film
The veteran director on Timecop, Outland, 2010, Enemies Closer and more

Explore The Massive Avengers: Age Of Ultron Comic-Con Banner
Use our interactive gadget to zoom in on Hulk, Iron Man, The Vision and co. in action

The 10 Biggest Stories Of Comic-Con 2014
The shocks to emerge from this year's geek-fest. Avengers! Max! Mann!

Models Inc.: The Inside Story Of Sideshow Collectibles
How the likes of Batman, Superman and Luke Skywalker become collectible figures

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time Subscribers' Cover

Subscribe today and get the cover and 3 issues for only £10!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 6 issues of Empire for just £15!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)