How much exposition do you need in a film? Those clunky scenes when characters discuss plot, stitching Scene A to Scene B? Obviously film is a visual medium, so in theory nobody needs say anything.
In Under the Skin, director Jonathan Glazer decides less is definitely more, keeping dialogue to a minimum as Scarlett Johansson’s alluring alien arrives in Scotland and begins patrolling the streets for men.
In short, it’s Species with A-levels.
There are bound to be comparisons with Nic Roeg’s the Man Who Fell to Earth, the last time an intelligent, erotic, surreal study of an alien’s arrival on Earth made such an impact. That was almost 40 years ago.
Since then we've had plenty of alien visitor movies, but many were teen-friendly offerings designed to make pots of cash or satires such as Brother From Another Planet and Morons From Outer Space.
Glazer had spent a decade developing the movie, distilling the source novel down to its purest form. And the result is disturbing, mesmerising and unforgettable.
Johansson is terrific in one of the boldest roles of her career. Initially a predatory, blank avatar unaffected by empathy, her visitor merely exists to trap men and use them.
’Why’ would be spoilerific.
How she does it is part Hellraiser; asking guys back to her dingy house where they are understandably seduced, and then live to regret it.
Through it all the soundtrack throbs and pulses. The camera largely taking a back seat as we watch the visitor watching the locals, searching for her next target.
It's as voyeuristic as Rear Window or Blue Velvet, and just as compelling.
Arguably the best scene involves a loner with “nice hands”, as affecting as anything you've seen all year. It's at this point Johansson’s lethal ET starts to gain a degree of humanity.
Yes, I could describe more of the plot, who the nice handed character is, and lots more, but better to let the movie wash over you.
UTS is a haunting, waking dream of a movie. It may have made a modest impact at the cinema, grossing a couple of million dollars in the States alone, but given the limited number of screens it played on, and the arty sensibilities, there's perhaps little wonder.
Like all cult films, it will prove far more indelible than tent pole movies which dominate the opening weekend box office then vanish without a trace.
Hopefully we won't have to wait another decade for Glazer’s follow up. He's too great a talent to languish in whatever limbo space ScarJo’s alien was born from.