With the 2012 release date schedule pretty much nailed in, give or take a few films, our eyes have started to wander toward the horizon. Some of this was discussed in one of our recent features in which we asked: are any of these dozen or so films going to arrive in 2012?
The answer is maybe. Some will appear at film festivals this year, but that doesn't necessarily mean they will surface with proper 2012 theatrical releases. One of those big, nebulous question marks hovers over one of our most anticipated films of the (hopefully) near future -- Jonathan Glazer's "Under The Skin" starring Scarlett Johansson.
Glazer's a rare talent, a visual stylist who also cares about character, emotion and dramatic stakes. With two aughts classics under his belt (including his striking debut, "Sexy Beast") and a list of spooky and impressive music videos, Glazer hasn't made a feature length effort since "Birth" in 2004. Eight years is a long time between features, but "Under The Skin" -- which appears to be in effects-heavy post-production -- should be a haunting return to form.
About an alien (Johannsson) that takes the perfect synthetic form of an irresistibly alluring woman, driving remote highways seeking the resource she is here to collect -- us -- by snaring us with her sexuality, on the surface "Under The Skin" sounds like the 1995 sci-fi thriller "Species," but in actuality it's nothing like it. Based on Michel Faber's novel, the book and screenplay demonstrate something much more nuanced, with incredibly creepy notes almost akin to a sci-fi-ish psychological horror. In fact, if you take that tenor and mix it with the not-so-sci-fi-ish tone of Mark Romanek's "Never Let Me Go," it may be a strong indication of how unique this film is likely going to be.
And Scarlett Johansson concurs. "It's so weird, I've never been in a movie where the logline of the movie, where the plot has been so twisted. It's crazy. 'Are you eating people on the side of the road?' I'm like, 'No, no!'," she said in a recent interview with Variety, then qualifying what the film is like: "OK, yes I do play an alien who is wearing my own skin. But it's actually not a science-fiction film; it's sort of a film that asks existential questions and much more complex than the logline."
Skeptics take note. Clearly Johansson ranks Glazer among some modern greats: " It's hard to say if [my creative relationship with Woody Allen] could ever be replicated with another director but I'd hope so," she said. "Jonathan Glazer being one of them. I'd [always] jump at the chance to do anything with him."
The FilmNation synopsis also notes a plot twist for the main character-- something that sounds like human sympathy: "[The alien] is deadly efficient, but over time it becomes intrigued by emotions it never knew existed. Drawn to our humanity, 'it' slowly becomes 'she.' As her empathy grows, her resolve weakens and she goes 'off mission,' setting herself on a collision course with her own kind."
So where is "Under The Skin" on the timetable then? As of right now, its status is virtually unknown. Shot last year in Scotland (where the novel takes place), (some set photos appeared here and here), due to the nature of the story -- an extra-terrestrial that absorbs the essence of its prey, transforming into a black goop that envelops, and then dissolves and eats away on its nourishment (in this case, mostly humans) -- its likely a lot of time is being spent on effects that are atypically sci-fi and more grounded in the realistic and unnerving tone of the film. And this we assume probably takes even more time to get the subtleties and nuances right.
While it's been financed by FilmNation, Film4 and the UK Film Council, the film does not have a U.S. distributor yet (StudioCanal has it for the U.K.). Will we see it turn up at one of the film festivals this fall? We can only hope.