"No piece of art is worth a life." This line is quoted by main character Simon (James McAvoy) twice within the first ten minutes of the film, Trance. It’s said twice because it's safe to assume director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) wants you to hold that line in the back of your mind while you go through the suspenseful journey the film takes you on.
Superbly acted, Trance stars, along with McAvoy (The Last King of Scotland), Rosario Dawson (Rent) as Elizabeth Lamb and French actor Vincent Cassel (Black Swan) as Franck. The three actors play off of each other nicely, providing one of the many reasons why this film works.
Simon is a fine art auctioneer who steals the Goya painting, Dancing Witches, from his auction house and turns against his partner in crime, Franck. His corruption leads Franck to give him a massive blow to the head with the back of a gun, which in turn causes amnesia. Because of this, Simon cannot remember where he hid the painting and is forced to seek out hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb to help him retrieve the painting's whereabouts from the deep corners of his mind. As the film begins, greed appears to be the driving force of the plot. Although, as the film progresses, other emotions hold precedence which leads to tension-building plot twists that will send your mind reeling.
As Elizabeth deconstructs Simon’s brain, the film begs the question, what drives the mind more, love or fear? As you all know, the mind does not function purely on one of these emotions. Sure, one emotion is always the frontrunner depending on your day-to-day situation, but multiple coincide to provide the catalyst of your decision making. This is exactly what the movie Trance explores, and it does this through provocative filmmaking. The painting is the object of desire, but what it represents to each character unfolds in an unexpected way.
Besides the wonderful direction by Boyle, I have to give a shout-out to screenwriters John Hodge and Joe Ahearne for writing, in my opinion, a pretty seamless screenplay. Having as many twists and turns as the film has, the continuity was remarkable. I also have to compliment the film’s score which was composed by Rick Smith. With most thrillers I find the score takes a sudden leap when something dramatic happens. This usually causes you to launch your popcorn in the air or let out an "I-hope-no-one-noticed" fart. The music gave you just enough oomph to rattle your heart a bit and not force you to break wind.
Trance is one of those films that will stay with you for awhile. I kept replaying the ending in my mind on the way home from the theater which almost caused me to rear-end a Civic. It’s a safe bet the significance of the painting will more than likely be disputed by many in the land of film critics, too. The thought provoking nature of Trance served as a reminder of the power of film and why it continues to be my favorite medium.
I would like to dedicate this review to the late Roger Ebert. Unfortunately, I never got to meet him, but his influence on me was tremendous. He was one of the reasons I chose to study film theory in college and why I love writing and discussing them. Thank you, Mr. Ebert.