|Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin.|
Scarlett Johansson plays a man-eating alien in Under the Skin. Silver Screen Saucers has been following the movie’s slow crawl to the big screen since 2011 when plot details and onset images first emerged. Now, finally, Under the Skin has premiered to widespread acclaim at European and American film festivals, and we’ve been presented with a head-scratcher of a teaser trailer.
The official plot synopsis for Under the Skin states that Johansson plays “an alien on earth, disguised as the perfect aesthetic form of a mesmerizing woman. She scours remote highways and desolate scenery looking to use her greatest weapon to snare human prey -- her voracious sexuality. She is deadly efficient, but over time becomes drawn to and changed by the complexity of life on earth. With this new found humanity and weakening alien resolve, she finds herself on a collision course with her own kind.”
Io9.com gives us more details in a telling quote from the Times review of the book version of the movie:
“The first man she picks up is distracted by her perfect breasts, but he also notices her 'big knobbly elbows . . . knobbly wrists too, and big hands.' The lenses of her glasses are so thick her eyes look 'twice normal size,' and she is described as 'half 'Baywatch' babe, half little old lady.'"
Actually, Isserley is a great deal stranger than that. She has been surgically altered to look human, and she comes from a place much farther away than the reader might at first imagine. Her intentions for the men she picks up are not sexual — they're culinary. Once she's decided a hitchhiker is appropriate prey, she drugs him and takes him to an abattoir hidden beneath a run-down farm, where, in horrifying fashion, he is prepared for shipment to Isserley's home world.
Apparently the story is told from Johansson's point of view, and slowly her character begins to have qualms about shipping so many men off to her home planet.
Critics’ reviews so far have been overwhelmingly positive. Time Out’s Dave Calhoun calls Under the Skin “An intoxicating marvel, strange and sublime”; the Daily Telegraph’s Robbie Collin says “If my legs hadn't been so wobbly and my mouth so dry, I would have climbed up on my seat and cheered”; Screen Daily’s Lee Marshall compares the film to the works of director Andrei Tarkovsky (Solaris, Stalker), while Film Blather’s Eugene Novikov and The Playlist’s Chris Willman draw comparisons with the back-catalogues of David Cronenberg and Nicolas Roeg, respectively.
According to The Daily Mail, Under the Skin uses vérité filmmaking techniques in an attempt to make onscreen interactions feel more genuine:
“Scarlett, for one, drove around in a van outfitted with hidden cameras and lured actual non-actor men into the vehicle. It was only afterward that participants were notified of the fact that they were on a movie shoot.”
The movie’s director, Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast), told the Los Angeles Times: “The key thing for me — the way I understood it would work — was to shoot her [Johansson] in disguise and use the idea of dropping her into the world and shooting her in a way, with the hidden cameras, that wasn't calling attention to itself, so we are really photographing behaviour.”
This approach, Glazer told the LA Times, is part of an attempt to put the viewer in the shoes of an alien being on Earth: “The core of the story that I was clearly interested in was her journey — and looking at our world as an alien planet through her eyes.”
Under the Skin is currently looking for a theatrical distributor, but is expected to hit cinemas later this year or early in 2014.