Tuesday, December 3, 2013

TRANCE (Danny Boyle, 2013, UK)

Danny Boyle’s latest film TRANCE is completely underwhelming. The film is wonderfully filmed and edited, the actors quite good but the flaw lies with the story itself: it asks us to change our allegiance to the protagonist in the third act. That is, the moral center is skewed and we’re asked to despise the character who’s POV we've been experiencing from the start. The characters we’re eventually supposed to connect with are not sympathetic once the plot is broken down. 

TRANCE is well constructed and paced with the typical Boyle flourish. The soundtrack thrums with energy during the action sequences yet can slow down to evoke a subtle emotional response, or lapse into silence to empower a scene. Boyle’s editing isn't quite as flashy as his past films and he often holds on a scene in medium long shot to allow the actors a larger canvas (so to speak) on which to act. He also eschews shot/reverse shot dialogue and utilizes minimum cuts which allow him to edit the film “in the camera”. He uses a nice transitional scene several times of an overhead shot of cars on a cloverleaf at night: the lights look like neurons following their tenebrous pathways. This fits perfectly with the plot of the film which ultimately asks, what is identity? Elizabeth the Psychotherapist nails it: “We are the totality and consistency of our memories”. And Boyle fucks with memory just not in a believable fashion. 


The whole idea of Hypnosis is a Deus Ex Machina: it becomes “magic” or whatever the story wants it to be. I just could not suspend my disbelief over the fact that a therapist would become involved with a client, the relationship turn abusive, the therapist would try to hypnotize him and then keep him as a client even after a violent breakup. Sorry folks, I don’t find that credible. It’s also impossible that Simon ‘forgets” his entire relationship with the therapist: it’s just a device for the plot to turn on unexpectedly in the final act. And someone should have told Danny Boyle that a dead body reeks, that it would have been detected within a few days as it decomposes in the trunk of a car. Why this slipped through the writer’s or director’s mind boggles mine. 

I guess we’re supposed to find the ending satisfying but I sure don’t. I find it a cheat. The therapist is left with the painting and may reconcile with Frank (Simon’s nemesis throughout the film). But Elizabeth (the therapist) shows no remorse or sadness over the death of a totally innocent woman: she acts as if everything worked out for the best. She is also in possession of another’s stolen property. Elizabeth suffers no consequences for any of her own actions. But the permutations that get us to the ending are just too unbelievable. I’m not buying it…nor should you.

Final Grade: (D+)

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