I have to admit that I did not see the first minutes of the film. Neither have I read the book therefore I will write about this film as if it was a piece of art on its own, which it is.
Under the Skin is a new picture from Jonathan Glazer, who has also directed Birth with Nicole Kidman and some music videos for bands like Radiohead. The main character, alien Laura, is played by the famous actress Scarlett Johansson.
Firstly, there is no obvious narrative in this film, because it does not have a big significance or importance here. On the most basic level it is a story of an alien imposing a woman and seducing men from all over Scotland in order to drain their flesh. This is the most simple summary of the movie. On deeper layers it is a serious study of our society. The film's main focus is on the inside and outside of things, the philosophy of form and material. Johansson's character is struggling in this society. She is always portrayed as going against the stream, she is lost in the sea of rushing people who do not want to get deeper into things, because they know they could be hurt. This is represented in a very subtle visual way. For instance, roses look nice in the film, but they have spikes which make rose seller's hands bleed. A piece of cake seems delicious, but the taste of it is disgusting. It is always the fight between the surface and depth in this film, the first impression and further investigation. I believe it is a very important theme for our society where people are afraid of making commitments or engagements, where they seek for quick pleasures, even though they need true and honest love. The film is very strong visually and stylistically. In order for the reader to get a glimpse of what it is, I will say that it is sort of a combination of Kubrick, Lynch and von Trier.
Kubrick - for using clever cinematic language, for all the subliminal messages that are there like a sign on a building saying "Open 24" which is pretty ironic as nobody in the film is truly open. The director deliberately plays with this open and closed concept a lot. The music is somewhat similar to Eyes Wide Shut's too and I think it is used to the fullest in Under the Skin as a form of expression. One can also feel the influence of 2001: A Space Odyssey with all those shots of abstract liquids and close-ups of a human eye.
Lynch - for the dreamy, surreal sequences and the guy with the ugly face. I see it as a direct reference to his film The Elephant Man where he also talks about the inner beauty of a human being.
Von Trier - for the sea scene (Breaking the Waves), for the foggy scenes in the woods (Antichrist). Like it usually happens with von Trier's work, someone might blame this film of cheap shock value. I do not think that is the case. The film is being a little provocative, indeed, but at the same time all those provocations are reasoned by the message the director wants to convey.
So one can easily feel some influence from other directors, maybe some references, but I should say that this film does not lack originality at all. The directing decisions and the choice of music are as strong as the 2.5 minute close-up of Nicole Kidman's face in Birth. If you have seen that scene, you know what you are dealing with here.
Even though, in my opinion, the images are very meaningful and extremely powerful, Under the Skin has received a lot of contrasting responses. Personally, I think the film is a masterpiece and it is worth the Golden Lion, but there are people who actually hated it and booed at it after having seen it. I cannot really understand why they did that, but I think it is good when a piece of art inflicts emotions and receives such different responses. It means that it is not mediocre and that it will cause discussions, maybe some self reflection which is always a good thing. The film suggests that I should get more into details, analyse things carefully from beginning to end, but I will not, just because I want other people to see it first and make their own conclusions. But obviously Under the Skin demands a bigger analysis than this one. I will just say that I was blown away by what I saw on the screen and by what I heard from the speakers. I hope I will get to see it again on the big screen. It has so much power and it is questioning the most important, essential things about our existence - our values as human beings. Where are we going, where are we rushing? Maybe we need to stop and look at the beauty around us? Maybe we should stop being superficial about others? Or maybe we are empty like balloons ourselves? For me it is definitely the best film from the 70th Venice Film Festival and one of the best films I have seen in my life.
Review by Eivinas Butkus from the Internet Movie Database.