Some films take a few days to sink in and loom larger in memory than they did on first viewing — especially truly original ones, such as Under the Skin from British filmmaker Jonathan Glazer. This haunting, almost wordless work of experimental science fiction stars Scarlett Johansson as a nameless alien whose only mission appears to be luring human males to their deaths. Nothing is explained directly in Under the Skin. Glazer wants viewers to experience the film through his alien's eyes, so there is no more information about any of the film's characters or events other than what the alien gets through her interactions with others. It's intentionally disorienting, but the film is remarkably effective at illuminating the subjective nature of human experience.
Glazer is known largely for his wildly imaginative commercials and music videos for artists including Radiohead and Blur over the course of a 20-year career. Under the Skin is only his third feature (including the award-winning Sexy Beast), but it's clear that Glazer only makes films he wants to make. Johansson's presence surely allowed him to get Under the Skin financed, but she returns the favor by delivering the strongest work of her career. Many of the film's other characters are nonactors brought into the film spontaneously on the street by Johansson — who's nearly unrecognizable under a shock of coal-black hair — and shot with hidden cameras. That this method bears fruit is nothing short of amazing. But it works, and it's revealing of how men interact with women in the real world. Under the Skin may be challenging, but take it on its own terms and the rewards run deep.