director Jonathan Glazer
The film can be summarized rather summarily: Scarlett Johansson (you had me as Scarlett) plays a woman who goes around Scotland, picking up men seductively, taking them to isolated places where her seduction leads them into a black pool of death (literally). They are submerged and abandoned, then sucked out, and turned into some grisly red puree.
The film strives for a perspective of the alien, as it turns out that Johansson is not of this Earth. Glazer doesn’t spell out the narrative for the audience; it’s intentionally open and meant to be intuited.
Scarlett Johansson. She is great as this strange being who seems to begin to develop a sense of humanity living in the skin of a human, particularly after she meets a man with “facial neurofibromatosis disfigurement” (played by a man with the real disorder, not in make-up). I’m not the first to note this, but Johansson is developing as an actress, more and more, not necessarily in the showy performances that win Oscars, but in these subtler roles.
She is also fully naked through parts of the film. A different element of notability.
Really, the film emanates on varying ideas throughout. She is sort of vampire-like in her seduction and charms, a female serial killer, luring men with her looks and friendliness. She is a killer who doesn’t actively kill. She lures them to their deaths in some liquid machinery. There is something sort of feminist in some of this action perhaps.
But the film evolves as she develops to a point of actually trying to have sex with a man rather than luring him with promises unfulfilled. The sex freaks her out. Not what she was expecting. And ultimately, as she is dealing with some realizations about humans and humanity, perhaps trying to come to terms with what she is and what she is doing, she is attacked by a man who attempts to rape her. She is unmasked in this moment, the alien under the skin exposed. The man then douses her with petrol ad sets her ablaze, which takes the potential feminist reading and makes that stranger, somehow.
I don’t know. There is a lot to this film. It’s strange, moody, thoughtful, contemplative, and “arty”. I can’t give it a singular commentary. But I’d say it’s certainly one of the best films I’ve seen this year. I’m sorry I didn’t get to the theater to see it when it was out. I’ve got the feeling that I’ll be recommending it to people a lot in the coming months.