Calvary had just finished and I was the first to leave. It was Saturday night, 9pm. The mood inside cinema 3 at the Nova was flat. The final scenes had not left much to the imagination.
I was on my own and I just wanted to get home as soon as possible and eat a piece of gingerbread with some blue cheese. I put my empty bottle of ‘piccolo’ on the trolley and walked briskly to the loos. Two women were already in there. They were standing side by side, drying their hands.
“That was such a bad film,” one of them said in a loud voice. “I really hated it.”
The high-speed hand dryers made that sucking whoosing whizzing noise and I imagined the women’s skin rippling like the sea under the vicious hot air. They both had short, shaggy blonde hair tucked behind their ears and tanned faces. I washed my hands and watched them in the Nova’s weird smoky mirrors.
“Yeah, me too,” the friend said. “I wanted to leave after that thing with the boy. We should have left then.”
Then they finished drying their hands but they continued to stand in the loos and shout as if the hand dryers were still making that noise. Their voices were indignant and excited. “It was so bad,” the first woman said. “I think it was the worst film I have ever seen.”
“What was it even about! I hated it so much.”
The women were a fraction away from yelling. They were my age, maybe a bit older. Not young people at all. Not the type you normally see being so completely disgusted. It was outstanding. What had done this to them? Could it be Calvary?
“What movie are you talking about?” I asked them.
“Under the Skin!” they shouted at me.
“Oh I loved that,” I said. The door had swung shut but I could still hear them gasping and then winding up for another rant that would probably include weirdos like me!
What a brilliant night out it had become. I left the cinema with images of Scarlett Johansson the alien in my head. The scene where she takes a bite of chocolate cake, the scene when she looks at nail polish in the shopping centre, the scene in the nightclub, the fire in the forest, the mask, the black water, the van, the desolate beach, the people on the streets in Glasgow.
I mention this here because this commotion in the loos confirmed that Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin is the most original, mysterious, strange and interesting film I have seen in ages.
It is just so rare for a movie to polarise people like this. One friend said it had been the talk of his office. “People either loved it or they walked out. They said there were lots of walk outs.”
I got an email from another friend. “Seen Under the Skin. Let me know when you’ve got time to talk.” I called her and we went over the movie, especially the scene with the baby on the beach. We had such different responses to it. Great conversation.
At work, I mentioned the movie to a colleague. This woman is the most fashionable person I know. Proof: she has a rock-climbing wall in her garage and it is called Baudelaire.
“I saw Under the Skin twice in the cinema,” she said.
“Did you like it?”
“I saw it twice in the cinema,” she said in the same tone. Her voice was totally deadpan although maybe she let herself put the tiniest emphasis on the cinema.
“Have you read the book? My friend Dave says it is amazing. Apparently, Michel Faber is from Melbourne, originally. Under the Skin is one of his favourite novels.” I was gushing now.
“The book?” she said, lightly. “We bought the book for our friend as a joke because he wouldn’t see the film and we flicked through it and it was so badly written.” She laughed. “I mean, the book is about aliens,” she said.
At the word “alien”, my colleague wrinkled up her nose in disgust.