The ultra-bizarre surrealist nightmare ‘Under the Skin’ sparked a lot of discussion when it came out last year and the name Jonathan Glazer found its way onto the lips of many film enthusiasts, but what you may not realize is that you’ve been watching his work for years.
Let’s go back a bit. For the past 20 years, Jonathan Glazer’s directorial efforts have mainly been television advertisements and music videos. You may recognize his 1996 video for Jamiroquai’s ‘Virtual Insanity’ where Jamiroquai appears to slide around the room as he dances. The effect is quite an ingenious one. He was a theater design major at Nottingham Trent University in his native country of England, and we can see how this knowledge came into play in his creative solution for the video.
It seems obvious that his experiences working on music videos and commercials allowed for much more experimentation than if he had focused on directing features from the beginning, but it’s much more than that. He also had the invaluable experience of heading a Guinness campaign that provided the opportunity and constraint to communicate information economically. These ads pack a lot into a short timeframe—whether it’s character, story, or atmosphere.
The next thing these commercials and music videos did was provide logistical experience in a shoot much shorter than a feature film. And sometimes the scale of the production was quite substantial. This ad for Bravia, which he directed in 2006 (after his first two feature films), used 250 crew members and was made pretty much entirely out of practical effects. It took 10 days to shoot and the result is nothing short of epic.
His first feature film, made in 2000, was titled ‘Sexy Beast’ about a gangster called out of retirement to aid in a heist. His second, made in 2004, was ‘Birth’—a film about a boy who claims to be the reincarnated soul of a woman’s deceased husband. The films display Glazer’s playful creativity and striking visual style, but none more so than his most recent endeavor—’Under the Skin.’
I don’t know about you, but I am really looking forward to seeing what he does next—whatever that may be.
Under the Skin (2014 dir. Jonathan Glazer)
Sexy Beast (2000 dir. Jonathan Glazer)
Birth (2004 dir. Jonathan Glazer)
“Street Spirit” by Radiohead (Music Video dir. Jonathan Glazer)
“Virtual Insanity” by Jamiroquai (Music Video dir. Jonathan Glazer)
“Rabbit in Your Headlights” by UNKLE (Music Video dir. Jonathan Glazer)
“The Universal” by Blur (Music Video dir. Jonathan Glazer)
“Karma Police” by Radiohead (Music Video dir. Jonathan Glazer)
“Karmacoma” by Massive Attack (Music Video dir. Jonathan Glazer)
“Treat Me Like Your Mother” by The Dead Weather (Music Video dir. Jonathan Glazer)
Wrangler – Ride (Commercial dir. Jonathan Glazer)
Guinness – Surfer (Commercial dir. Jonathan Glazer)
Guinness – Swim Black (Commercial dir. Jonathan Glazer)
Guinness – Dreamer (Commercial dir. Jonathan Glazer)
Volkswagen – Protection (Commercial dir. Jonathan Glazer)
Stella Artois – Last Orders (Commercial dir. Jonathan Glazer)
Stella Artois – Whip Round (Commercial dir. Jonathan Glazer)
Levis – Kung Fu (Commercial dir. Jonathan Glazer)
Levis – Odyssey (Commercial dir. Jonathan Glazer)
Barclays – Chicken (Commercial dir. Jonathan Glazer)
Sony BRAVIA – Paint (Commercial dir. Jonathan Glazer)
Jonathan Glazer: The Making of Jamiroquai’s “Virtual Insanity”
Jonathan Glazer: Keeping It Alien – Jonathan Glazer on Under The Skin
Jonathan Glazer: BRAVIA “Paint” Behind the Scenes
DP/30 Short Ends – Jonathan Glazer talks Under The Skin
“Andrew Void” – Under The Skin OST
“Virtual Insanity” by Jamiroquai
“Karma Police” by Radiohead
This video essay was written, edited, and narrated by Tyler Knudsen.