Mary Rose Cook's notebook

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Under the Skin

This was my favourite film of the year. I can’t say why. Readings of the film - it’s about rape culture, it’s about the importance that people ascribe to appearances, it’s about famousness - miss why I found it moving.

There are the scenes where a naked man follows the alien, unperturbed, into a pool of black goop, and floats away into the darkness. There are the rainy-lensed shots of hills with lights flaring that make the landscape look both grisly and luminous. There is this magical thread of the alien and their work running through a very ordinary world. There is the way scenes of the everyday are made beautiful and meaningful, not because they are made unreal but because the filmmaker has shown things in a new way. There is the little scene, shot from far away on a cliff-top, of a dog going into the sea and being swept away, a woman going in after the dog and being swept away, a man going in after the woman and being swept away, and another man going in and being dragged back to shore and carried off by the alien.

I tried to find stills that conveyed how the film felt, but it was impossible.