Rembrandt’s Sea of Galilee, Caravaggio’s Nativity, Vermeer’s The Concert,Modigliani’s Woman with a Fan.What do these famous paintings have in common? They were all stolen and are out of sight but their beauty is still with us and fans the fire in art thieves to commit the kind of darings robberies that last happened in Rotterdam’s Kunsthal art galley, a stones throw from where I once lived.In Trance, Danny Boyle takes us into a room full of these stolen masterpieces but that room only exists in a characters head. The stolen painting in question here is Francisco de Goya’s Witches in the Air which is stolen from a crowded auction room in London immediately after it is sold for more than 25 million pounds.
The film opens with the heist sequence, narrated by junior auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) who was present in the room when it happened.We see David (Vincent Cassel) the classic French gangster leading his men and apparently succeeding. But what he has stolen is an empty frame, the painting has been cut out.We see Simon being tortured by David and it emerges that he was an accomplice, this being another inside job.But its not that simple, Simon suffers from a genuine case of amnesia and they hit upon the idea of using a hypnotherapist to ferret out his submerged memories.The hypnotherapist is Victoria (Rosario Dawson), an unlikely femme fatale but once she takes control of Simons brain we are all under her spell.What follows is a story of recovering not just the painting but memories in Simons brain.
All thrillers use what is called the McGuffin which is a say a jumbo diamond or some such contrivance which has no other use except for keeping the audiences interest alive.Danny Boyle’s use of a famous painting by Goya somehow elevates the McGuffin to something that we care about.This of course brings to mind Abbas Kiarostami’s film Certified Copy which posed the tantalizing question, in a rather oblique way, that if the Mona Lisa were destroyed along with all its images and only a single reproduction survived, will be value it as much? But thats another discussion, possibly another film.
Danny Boyle knows how to shoot a film, this one was shot in a break between preparations for the summer Olympic games opening and closing ceremonies which he orchestrated with great success.In Slumdog Millionaire he created a film which while deeply polarizing Indian audiences won hearts worldwide and a bagful of Oscars, while in 127 Hours he took us inside the mind of a man trapped in a cave and forced to make impossible choices. His ability to tell a story in a stylized and completely engrossing manner makes him one of the most original directors around.Here he plays mind games with a very steady hand, he mixes psychedelic images with a lot of reflections to build a chimera.
The editing by Jon Harris is superb, in just 101 he gives us a story packed with many masterful sequences are partly constructed using montage of unrelated images like helicopter shots of loopy flyovers buzzing with cars .The color palette Boyle chooses is a mix of saturated colors, muted tones and dark shadows.This film uses the ubiquitous and misused technique of Digital Intervention(DI), to its immense advantage.Every frame is stunning to look at and is set to a thumping soundtrack that builds suspense and indeed puts us into a kind of trance.
While Vincent Cassel has immense screen presence, his role makes him more of a spectator to what James McAvoy and Rosario Dawson are upto. Mr MacAvoy as the amnesia struck victim keeps us fooled throughout.But this is a Rosario Dawson show all the way.The film stands on the shoulders of her brave and mysterious performance, she is in complete control throughout.Ms Dawson is an actress who has not got the opportunities she deserves, here she capitalizes on the script and delivers a mind bending performance.The fleeting piece of graphic nudity from her in Trance is not gratuitous, far from it.It is this single audacious element alone that makes the film worth watching and the way it has been linked to the stolen paining is clever and satisfying.
Trance is deliciously discombobulating, we suspect that the characters are not what they seem but thats not the point at all.The plot may be slightly far fetched but within the boundaries of faint plausibility it keeps us engaged.This is not a film like Inception which demanded, a little arrogantly, multiple viewings to understand. Trance deserves a second viewing just to relish its images and immaculate craft, not to decode it further. Hollywood makes far too many thrillers which are far too mediocre without a trace of originality or worse they squander an original premise hammering it into a humdrum product.Here both the idea and treatment are immensely enjoyable.
Danny Boyles next film is called Porno, a sequel to his cult film Trainspotting. Bring it on Danny Boy..XXX