Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Under the Skin

Earlier this week I went to see Jonathan Glazer's adaptation of Under the Skin, under the mistaken impression it would be based on the book of the same name by Michel Faber.

Little did I realise what I was about to watch bore similarities to the source material only in name, and in pathetic fallacy.

Faint alarm bells rang in my head months ago when I read about the casting of one of most beautiful women in the world - ScarJo - as the alien seductress protagonist. If she were about 25 years younger, Shelley Duvall would've been better for the role, or perhaps Thora Birch, who coincidentally starred with Johansson in Ghostworld. Or Sigourney Weaver. Or Christina Ricci.

Or anyone else.

But hark at me going on about the actress's looks instead of skills. So I will graciously say ScarJo was very good at looking like she'd been stuck to a window, driving around for hours, not saying much, and taking her clothes off.

In the book we learn about a female alien who disguises herself to lure men into her van so they can be taken off to a warehouse, fattened up and sold off to the rich aliens. She has to do back exercises every day to cope with the sheer agony of contorting her natural form to look more humanoid (much like me). She isn't used to shoes. She wears glasses to hide her weird eyes. She's generally described as being a bit ugly, but tarts up well and has a nice rack, so that's how she's able to secure the hitchhikers.

I was squirming in anticipation (and because the way I'd folded my jacket on the back of my seat was highly uncomfortable and I'm too polite and British to get up and rustle about to sort it out) waiting for the Bond-style gadgetry I'd expected to appear in the van, expecting {SPOILER ALERT} ScarJo to flick the stalk on the steering wheel which would propel the needles through the passenger seat to incapacitate her chosen victims.

Which never happened.

The graphic descriptions of how the hapless hitchhikers were moved in hostage from different levels of fattening...yeah that was never shown in the film either. Instead, we got boobs.

The attraction she feels for the wolf-man dude who turns up to check on the bloated humans (my memory of the book proving to be a little fuzzy now) - yeah, that's not even in it. He's not even in it. Instead, we get ass. Or 'erse', because we are in Scotland now.

I was expecting scenes showing the exercises she does to cope with walking on two legs instead of all fours. Instead, we get a highly unnecessary rape scene which nearly caused me to storm out of the cinema in disbelief. I'd been looking for an excuse to leave for about an hour, but I wanted to stick around to tell my cinema buddies to READ THE BOOK afterwards.

I was so bored of waiting for the storyline I knew to start, I lapsed into delirium at one stage at the sight of a horse.

"WAR HORSE!", I whispered to my friend.

"WAR HORSE!", he whispered in agreement.

Then another horse appeared.

"Hay there"

"S'MORE HORSE!" observed my pal, gleefully.

The next five minutes of the film was lost to me as I was trying to stop crying and snorting.

I turned my attention back to the barely-there plot, where for some reason ScarJo is wandering about the forest catching flies and getting off with some curly-haired guy. Oh and there was a bit before that with a guy with a deformed face who wanted to go to Tesco. And a guy on a motorbike who is like her partner in crime and helps her get clothes at the beginning of the film.

Of course none of it makes sense, but it doesn't have to, because oooh, look how spooky and atmospheric everything is and how they used REAL Scottish people and that.

HE would've made a better alien woman

I imagine people that go to see the film not having read the book will appreciate the creeping dread throughout, plus the sound production. Well, I know that because that's what my mates said anyway.

They'll also probably think it's some sort of feminist revenge fantasy. After all, why is she capturing all these men? It's never explained.

And {another SPOILER ALERT} there's this one bit where she peels her skin off. It's like somebody saw the title 'Under the Skin' and thought "that gives me an idea" and didn't bother reading the book at all and instead thought "Sexy woman - takes her clothes off - takes her skin off - it's like a metaphor for all the different layers of personality and hidden depths to people we don't understand and the masks we choose to present to society and blah blah blah fucking boobs and bums".

"I don't think I'm the right man to adapt a book," Glazer says in this Guardian article. Well, at least he got that right.