Essence Under Skin

Under The Skin, by Michel Faber

Warning: spoiler alert.

Oh, dear worst-reader, I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a (real) writer, write a book, and then have that book turned into a movie. What a show that must be. What a thrill. What an oasis of the mind. And. Yet. For those few writers where it does happen, well, how does it actually happen? Or. Could it happen something like this:

Movie Producer: Hello Mr. Faber. May we make your book into a movie?

Michel Faber: Ok.

Movie Producer: Thank you, that’s very nice of you.

Michel Faber: Sure.

Movie Producer: We really like your book but the movie will be slightly different than what you wrote. Are you good with that?

Michel Faber: Uh-huh.

Movie Producer: Because the only thing we’re gonna use from your book in the movie is the title.

Finished Under The Skin, the book, last night. I saw the movie a few days before. It’s rare that a movie motivates moi to read the book it’s based on but it does happen, like it did here. The motivating factor to read the book were the lights the movie turned on in my head. Lights of curiosity. But here’s the really, really strange thing about reading the book directly after watching the movie. The book has absolutely nothing to do with the movie. That is, the really neat-o-torpedo movie, Under The Skin, starring a hot little hollywood starlet named Scarlett, blew my mind. What a story! It was a story that seemed to have no beginning or end–yet there was a bunch inbetween. As it starts, I couldn’t help but think of the beginning of 2001 Space Odyssey. Hence, some consider it science fiction. When it ended I thought: ok, you can start the film now. Of course, now that I’ve read the book, I am vey clear on the fact that Michel Faber did not write this story as science fiction. It is instead a dystopian novel with hints of biblical Armageddon and misconstrued feminism run amok… Or maybe not.

In the movie an alien uses the skin of a human female to disguise herself and thereby hunt the Scottish roadways to abduct male hitchhikers. In the book the alien doesn’t use human skin as a disguise. Instead, the alien is transformed through surgery from a canine-like being to something closely human, specifically female. In the movie, even though you don’t really know what she does with her prey, it doesn’t matter. The movie seems to be only about how she hunts. In the book you are treated to a gruesome display of what humanity is capable of doing in the name of 1) subjugation, 2) servitude and 3) abusing nature, specifically, in this case, abusing animals for the sake of food. Indeed, dear worst-reader. That’s the image I got out of Faber’s portrayal of what is done with the male hitchhikers picked up by an alien. They are captured for their skin in the movie (I guess but that’s not real clear) and in the book they are captured to get under your skin!

Oh! And don’t forget. A mega hollywood starlet shows lots of frontal nudity in the movie–I guess because she’s got great skin. I guess that’s all part of her ability to catch these men. Her true self would be unappealing. And while she lures men to their demise you see their frontal nudity as well. Equal time to equal sexes, eh. And it doesn’t stop there. The men who so easily follow Scarlett Johansson do so fully erect. Now there ya go! That’s it, I thought. I have to read the book to see where this director got the creative sparky to show men’s pee-pees all engorged and bothered. Yeah, baby. Alien Scarlett Johansson’s skin lures boner men to their demise the same way it sells movie tickets. Yeah, baby.

Ok. Nomatter. The movie is really, really cool and the book is even cooler. The only problem worst-writer has is that I need to know how the director/producers of the movie were able to get away with making a film based solely on the title of a book. It’s the only thing they have in common. And get this. In the book there is no reference–at all!–to skin being used to disguise aliens. In fact, when I finished the book, I wondered if the guy who made the movie thought he was making a prequel or a sequel first. And then, while continue to think, the gibberish begins. The gibberish in my mind. And it is gibberish because the movie maker really screwed the pooch here. For the life of me I can’t imagine someone gutting my work like this director gutted Faber’s. But maybe Faber doesn’t see it that way. And. I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s just… I don’t know what it is. I’m confused. These are two completely different things and I guess in a way I’m frustrated because one got me to buy the other. And somehow someone is a liar in that constellation. And that I don’t appreciate.

Still. Glad to have read the book. Highly recommended. And if you need to know what the book is. Well. It’s a metaphor used by the author to portray the ills of life in the western world and how we are all, somehow, right now, nothing more than puppets for a higher power, a corporate power, and there are only one or two of us still capable of seeing the beauty of this planet. Or something like that.

Great read.

Rant on.