When it was first announced this summer that “Sexy Beast” and “Birth” director Jonathan Glazer was finally getting to work on his long-awaited next film this fall, we had our doubts. “Under The Skin” had been brewing for a while — it was once lined up for 2010 shoot, and Gemma Arterton was mooted for the lead — so while we were excited, we tempered our enthusiasm a bit because particularly with indie financing the way it is, a lot of things could happen between then and now to put the project on hold yet again. But lo and behold, not only has the October start stuck, the film is now shooting and the first glimpse of Scarlett Johansson in the starring role has made its way online.
An adaptation of Michael Faber‘s novel, the intriguing premise tells the story of Isserley, an alien on earth disguised as an attractive woman (ScarJo) who uses her voracious sexuality to scour remote highways and desolate scenery to snare human prey. There is a lot more to the premise which we won’t ruin here, but needless to say it builds to a dark ending, with political and environmental themes peppered throughout. The material gives plenty of room for Glazer to employ his keen visual eye and sense of pace and tone and we’re pretty thrilled to see what he does here with source material that upends expectations of a sexual thriller. Here’s a synopsis from Amazon:
In the opening pages of Under the Skin, a lone female is scouting the Scottish Highlands in search of well-proportioned men: “Isserley always drove straight past a hitch-hiker when she first saw him, to give herself time to size him up. She was looking for big muscles: a hunk on legs. Puny, scrawny specimens were no use to her.” At this point, the reader might be forgiven for anticipating some run-of-the-mill psychosexual drama. But commonplace expectation is no help when it comes to Michel Faber’s strange and unsettling first novel; small details, then major clues, suggest that something deeply bizarre is afoot. What are the reasons for Isserley’s extensive surgical scarring, her thick glasses, her excruciating backache? Who are the solitary few who work on the farm where her cottage is located? And why are they all nervous about the arrival of someone called Amlis Vess?
The ensuing narrative is of such cumulative, compelling strangeness that it almost defies description. The one thing that can be said with certainty is that Under the Skin is unlike anything else you have ever read. Faber’s control of his medium is nearly flawless. Applying the rules of psychological realism to a fictional world that is both terrifying and unearthly, he nonetheless compels the reader’s absolute identification with Isserley.
As for other details on the cast, things seem to be hard to find. The production is currently shooting in Scotland, and Glazer co-wrote the script with Walter Campbell. Other than that, not much more word, but this has pretty much shot to the top of this writer’s most anticipated for 2012. It has been far too long since Glazer has been behind the camera of a feature film and we can’t wait to see what he brings for this third effort. [In Case You Didn’t Know via ONTD]