Danny Boyle's latest movie, post Slumdog Milionaire, came out this week. It is very much a 'Danny Boyle' picture, creative and vivid cinematography, wonderful editing, nail-biting tensions, bits of graphic-edge-of-seat-gruesomeness, insanely delicious soundtrack and a really interesting story.
I suppose it's closest film comparison would be Inception, in that they are both essentially crime-drama, film noir with psychological twist. There's a lot to be said for that comparison. Although as the film unfolded I was continualy reminded of a lecture I attended by Antonio Damasio on his book, Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain. The film which is about an art-auctioneer embroiled with thieves, who has experienced amnesia and must recover the memory of a lost piece of art, covers many of the questions Damasio raised in that lecture about identity, memory and the like> The film explores these perennial ideas--probably raising more questions than answers, but keeping things moving by constantly baiting and switching the audience as to who the 'bad guys' really are. As the film explores the rapidly changing dynamics of the story by using parallel images, reflections, alternate scenarios, you get the sense that the film is also messing with the viewers capacity to rely on their onw memeory to unravel the story.
Some of it was predictable and a bit pedestrian, but I still came away feeling like I needed to go back and watch again--it has that Memento/Inception mind-fuck thing going, which I personally find quite compelling.
What is memory, how is it constructed and can it be manipulated? Would seem to be central questions the film raises--I am not sure there is any consensus on any of those questions and I am not certain the film gives much clarity, other than to say that memory is a construct and a vulnerable one at that. Encoding, storing and retrieving memory are fascinating concepts and riddles at the same time--memory makes, gives us a sense of who we are and helps us to locate ourselves in time and space, Trance plays with all of that and more. I think we want certainty on these issues because we recognize the vulnerability when we forget--this is the dilemma of the film's central character--he is desparate to remember and resorts to hypnosis, but this leads him deep into the confusing world of memory and the manipulative power of suggestion, and the 'truth' becomes even more elusive. This sort of film can be quite unsettling at times, but it's well worth the discomfort.