I’m always in for a movie that is challenging, and no film fits that description like Jonathan Glaser’s ‘Under the Skin’. Some day I’m going to sit down with this movie and a notebook and write down all my theories, ideas and questions about this movie and try and piece them together. This is an extremely complicated movie that is not easily digested. Glaser refuses to hold your hand with this material even though it would seem to write itself.
Loosely based on the 2001 book by Michael Faber, ‘Under the Skin’ is an alien-invasion story, about a being that steals the skin of a wayward woman and then wanders around a nowhere town in Scotland in a white van luring lonely, horny young men to her driver’s side window, beckoning them with small talk and unspoken promises of sex. The men are interesting. They all seem somewhat desperate and the locations in which she picks them up seem distant and anonymous. Like any killer, she carefully chooses men that she suspects will not immediately be missed. For reasons the movie never explains, she never attempts to pick up a woman.
The men are being selected to be turn into (I guess) food for an alien race. She kills them, skins them and then the rest is send out for processing. This cold-blooded mission, however, takes a turn when her association with humanity becomes curious to her. She begins to care about us homo sapiens and struggles to understand our customs. The story of her fear and confusion melt the heart of this ice cold story.
Where it goes, I will not say, but I will say that this is an easy movie to experience. It’s bitter cold, distance and often difficult to comprehend. Under the Skin contains dialogue but it isn’t necessary, this could easily have been a silent film. The connections made between Laura and the human world are spoken in hushed tones that are often covered up by the sounds of the city. The men speak in thick Scottish brogues that are sometimes hard to decipher – we’re hearing it through her ears, making out words but straining to understand them as a whole