By Don Simpson | July 31, 2013
Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: Joe Ahearne, John Hodge
Starring: James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, Rosario Dawson, Danny Sapani, Matt Cross, Wahab Sheikh, Mark Politer
In a film in which reality and perspective are perpetually in question, it is damn near impossible to discuss the narrative of Trance without committing to a single version of the truth (or revealing massive spoilers). Instead, I guess, it is probably best to just keep to the few vague yet somewhat indisputable facts…
After a brief voiceover about high dollar art thefts, Goya’s Witches in the Air is stolen during an art auction. During the robbery, Simon (James McAvoy) is knocked unconscious by the ringleader of the thieves, Franck (Vincent Cassel). Unfortunately for Franck, Simon is the only person who knows the whereabouts of Goya’s painting. So, Franck hires a hypnotherapist — Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) — to unlock the masterfully hidden mystery from Simon’s mind; thus commences the subconscious battle between what Simon wants to remember versus what he wants to forget.
I might consider Trance to be Hitchcockian, except that director Danny Boyle utilizes more than just red herrings and false starts to disorient and confuse the audience. The narrative of Trance spins around in circles until we are dizzy; then, as the “true” storyline rears its many heads, the logic of Trance grows increasingly befuddling. Trance mashes up reality, fantasy, dreams and hypnotic trance into a mushy amalgamation of candy-colored fluorescence, creating an ecstasy-riddled caper film that trips the lights fantastic. It is as if poor old Alfred Hitchcock is lost inside a raging rave for 100 minutes and beaten senseless.
Trance serves as a hyper-modern flashback to Boyle’s first feature, Shallow Grave. Self-preservation and revenge serve as the primary motivations for the characters of Trance to gamble, lie, cheat and steal. It seems as though no one can be trusted, despite their presumed allegiances and alliances. There is also an existential thread that discusses the significance of free will, specifically the responsibility for one’s own actions and the freedom of choice. The most coherent aspect of Boyle’s film, however, is it’s contemplation of the power struggles of human relationships. Using hypnotism as its guide, Trance observes how people control and manipulate each other, often preying on weaknesses that are perpetuated by fear and obsession.