The heart is devious above all else;
it is perverse—
who can understand it?
Danny Boyle’s film noir leaves the audience with even more ambiguous feelings than usual. This genre features characters whose intentions are so devious and evil that we are conflicted about them. Used to rooting for the main character in a story, we want to do so, but this is in opposition to our code of right and wrong, the characters planning on robbery, embezzlement, or murder. In Trance, there are not two, but three main characters— Simon (James McAvoy), an assistant art auctioneer; Frank (Vincent Cassel), head of the gang of thieves; and hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson), and we are not sure which to focus upon until near the end.
Boyle plays on our minds and emotions almost as Dr. Elizabeth Lamb does on the hapless Simon and would-be thief Franck. During the attempted heist of a Goya painting that was being auctioned for over $20 million, Simon loses his memory when hit on the head in the scuffle over the painting. Unable to tell his captor Franck where he hid the work during the few moments he had been alone with the painting, even under excruciating torture, Simon is sent to hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb in the hope that she can revive his memory. Do not let her last name deceive you, for in true film noire fashion she is a femme fatale who might be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. A fascinating tale that offers new revelation as the story unfolds, this amoral tale will appeal to fans of the genre—and certainly illustrates the Hebrew prophet’s observation. Church folk will find it difficult because of the graphic torture scene, and possibly even more, by the total nudity in the brief love scenes.
There are several possible spoilers from the beginning to the end, so if you have not seen this film, wait before going further.
1. Describe the three main characters. What surprised you about Simon along the way? What is it that motivates him? Did you find yourself shifting in whom you rooted for? Why?
2. What did you think of Dr. Lamb when at first? Hardly a victim, and yet what was her past that shapes what she does later in the film?
4. What did you think of the resolution at the end of the film? How does all this bear out Jeremiah’s observation?