Glasgow textures

It would be platitudinous to note that it frequently rains in Glasgow. That the city is often cloaked in a Stygian murk, a fine veil of rain, low clouds scudding over its monumental architecture.

That is not a criticism. For me the city's textures and tones have always suggested something of the ambience of science fiction. Modernist steel and glass rise amidst imposing late Victorian red brick and sandstone, the old providing contrast for the shock of the new. So many other historic city centres have the quality of a museum exhibit, their development frozen in time, preserved for the gaze of the tourist. Glasgow feels like a city in motion, a 21st century metropolis, moving into the future, the vector forwards.

Tweet me if I'm talking rubbish. But it seems I may not be alone. It's interesting, I think, that the city has featured in two recent sci-fi films. George Square and a few neighbouring streets made a brief appearance in last year's World War Z, and Glasgow is the primary setting for Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin.

Buchanan Street | Image Under the Skin

Glazer's film is the kind of intelligent sci-fi that has appeared infrequently on the screen since the genre's high watermark in the 1970s. It's in the elliptical tradition of Stanley Kubrick's 2001, Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris and Stalker, and - perhaps most obviously - Nicholas Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth. I had high hopes and wasn't disappointed: Under the Skin is understated, genuinely unsettling, and like all good science fiction tells us something about our contemporary condition.

But more than anything it looks extraordinary. Scarlett Johansson invests her near silent role with suitable alien strangeness. And Glasgow does the rest, providing a rich palette of urban textures: labyrinthine city centre streets, a blur of shoppers, sodium-lit suburbs, nebulous skies of shifting greys, industrial structures looming through mist, headlights in the rain.

Complex lighting effects and clever CGI have their place. But sometimes all that's necessary is to capture what's right in front of you.

Motorway entry | Image Under the Skin

Forest road | Image Under the Skin

Driving through Glasgow | Image Under the Skin

Forest | Image Under the Skin

Categories: