A mysterious young woman (Scarlett Johansson) roams the streets of Scotland in the evening hours, searching for men to seduce. Nearly ten years since his last film, Director Jonathan Glazer returns to his avant-garde form. Glazer is an intelligent filmmaker who maintains firm control throughout. I fear that certain audiences will call this film pretentious because of how tempered it is, but the very aspects that are considered pretentious will likely be the ones that will maintain its integrity in the future.
The film shares very little with the novel in terms of specific plot milestones; it essentially strips the book down to nothing but its basic concept, from there it rebuilds itself with all-new plot points, it’s kind of a prequel that runs parallel to the novel instead of preceding it. This is kind of the best way to make a film adaptation of literary text because it respects that certain literary nuances are lost in translation when directly adapted and allows the filmmaker to create new scenarios that are perhaps more cinematic. I am so sick of film adaptations of literature shoehorning in voice-overs and rushing plot points to try and stay faithful to the source material.
The film is extremely ambiguous with the plot direction, however, it remains faithful to the source material in theme and concept. We see the world through an alien perspective and as a result, some of the most intriguing and introspective moments are not the psychedelic trips or Sci-Fi moments, but the montages of real people going about their business on the streets of Scotland. Glazer allegedly shot the scenes where Johansson lures men into the van without their knowing (only informing them afterward), this adds to the atmosphere and themes of voyeurism. The film has an inquisitive documentary feel towards the human culture that truly feels alien in its analysis.
Inevitably the film has pacing issues. This is likely a result of the completely bizarre plot structure that is just all over the place. However, having said that the creeping pace is actually quite appropriate and plays well to the atmosphere of the film. The bizarre structure is all part of the film's experimental and provocative output and admirable even when it doesn’t work. That is the film’s saving grace; even when its experiments seem to fail, it is still commendable.
A prime example of audacious and experimental film-making.
Under the Skin