Under The Skin

Jonathan Glazer, 2013, UK

I went to the cinema!

First time since… March, I guess. They tempted me back with this film, which I saw when it came out (was it that long ago??!!) and remember being impressed by the sound design. In my mind, it was a film that had to be watched in a cinema. Which is probably why they have re-released it (along with a new Glazer short for an added treat).

It was strange turning up at the cinema. I almost thought it was closed after all, with nobody hanging around in the foyer. The refreshments counter wasn’t open. I think the woman who checked my ticket was the cleaner.

There were maybe ten of us in the huge auditorium, all spread out. It was kind of wonderful, like a personal screening. It’s actually how I prefer my cinema visits!

Even though I’ve strangely not massively missed going to the cinema, it was good to be back in the enveloping darkness, with a screen so big I felt insignificant, and sound that blocks out everything else. It’s what makes a visit to the cinema special for me, that immersion in another world for a short time – which even lasts after you’ve left the cinema and the journey home becomes infused with what you’ve just watched. I stomped to the metro as if I was an alien pacing the streets of Glasgow.

The film itself didn’t make quite the impression it did on first viewing. While it’s an excellent film, I’m not sure the second watch added anything much, but I enjoyed it a lot. The sound is great; so crucial to the atmosphere, it’s almost another character. Glazer makes the most of the location, with shots of immense and inhospitable Scottish landscapes. Scarlett Johansson excels herself as the cold and inhuman alien. You really believe she is another lifeform merely dressed up in a Scarlett Johansson costume. And some of the scenes are so strange, they made me physically queasy.

I worry for cinemas. I think this pandemic is really going to change film exhibition, which was struggling anyway with competition from Netflix and the like. Getting people off the sofa and into a cinema has been a challenge for a long time.

But maybe it’ll just become more specialist (elitist, if you like), like vinyl records. More of a niche thing for the connoisseurs. I will be in the front row.

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