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Jonathan Glazer read the book on which he based UNDER THE SKIN exactly once before adapting Michael Faber’s novel of the same name. The result is a film that captures aspects of the book without trying to reproduce the entirely different experience of reading. Some themes are missing, but as far as I’m concerned, nothing is lost. On the contrary, the power plays of sexual attraction are all the more incisive, while the questioning of what it means to be human is just as poignant without ever once devolving into the expected or the cliché.When I spoke with Glazer on March 26, 2014, I discovered a thoughtful man who weighed his well-chosen words carefully as he discussed how he uses the way an audience filters what it sees on screen, engaging the unconscious mind as well as the conscious one, acting the way a dream acts. It’s a bold way of filmmaking, all the more powerful for being seemingly understated, not unlike the filmmaker himself. He went on to opine about why beauty and horror are such a potent combination, why seeing the world though alien eyes demands building a new cinematic vocabulary for science fiction, and the power of NOT using dialogue.
UNDER THE SKIN is adapted from the novel of the same name by Michael Faber, but taking the story, if not the spirit, in an entirely different direction. Scarlett Johansson plays Laura, or is that her name?, a woman of odd affect who drives around Scotland, picking up men and then literally sucking the life out of them. Told with a minimum of dialogue, and an enigmatic quality perfectly suited to pondering life, death, and human interaction, the film follows Laura’s unexpected insight into the nature of her prey, and deals with the monumental repercussions to her psyche. The film co-stars Paul Brannigan, and a host of non-professional actors with whom Johannssen interacts without their knowing who she is, or that they are being filmed. The film co-stars Paul Brannigan as the Good Samaritan, Jeremy McWilliams as the bad man on the motorcycle, and a slew of non-professionals who encountered Glazer, Johansson and the hidden camera. Glazer’s previous work includes his debut film, SEXY BEAST, about a retired gangster confronted by his past, and which garnered an Oscar™ nomination for Ben Kingsley, and the deeply disturbing BIRTH, about a 10-year-old boy who confronts a widow with HER past, presenting himself as the reincarnation of her dead husband.
Click the link to listen to the interview (14:08) UNDER THE SKIN — Jonathan Glazer Interview.