Director: Jonathon Glazer
Glazer’s third film, the product of ten years work, topped many best-of-year lists in 2014, without setting the box office on fire. Watching it it’s clear why, it’s a sombre, beautiful and largely wordless experience that remakes Glasgow and the Highlands as deeply alien worlds.
Scarlett Johansen, unearthly in beauty in most contexts, here is an alien wandering the streets of Scotland tasked with abducting willing Scotsmen. We see her don a dead woman’s clothes, then stalk her prey in a white transit van – picking them up on pretexts and taking them back to a house that appears to house an enormous subterranean oil tank, into which her victims sink.
The plot is slender, so I won’t dwell on it too much. Glazer isn’t interested in the details of why the aliens are here and what happens to the abductees – this is explored much more in Michael Faber’s source novel. Rather, he’s interested in how Johansen’s predator moves through the human worlds of shopping centres, ring roads and hotels as a tiger might through a herd of gazelle. It was much noted on release that Glazer used non-professional actors and hidden filming – both of which serve to intensify our sense of disorientation from conventional plot and character.
Two outdoor sequences – one a third of the way through and one at the end – are harrowing, one in particular being virtually unwatchable and with a visual impact that recall Eastern European masters Tarkovsky and Kieslowski.
Lastly, the music by Mica Levi both appropriate and a world away from conventional film scores, taking us into an alien soundworld to match Johanssen’s unearthly look.
It’s intense, disturbing and not for everyone – but as an expression of film-making as an art it’s entirely successful.
And apologies if we posted it on the old site, but I thought it would provoke a discussion here, especially as I’m guessing many are like me catching it on DVD rather than at the cinema.
Might appeal to people who enjoyed:
Cronenberg – who surely would have got to grips in a very different but equally visceral way with Faber’s novel; and sci-fi that’s more about ideas than spaceships.