When making the new hypnotic heist movie Trance, Danny Boyle took an abnormal approach to the production schedule. Having already committed himself to directing the opening ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympic Games, the Oscar winning filmmaker completed shooting his thriller, took time to work on the Olympics, and only afterward returned to Trance for post-production. It was a schedule that some directors likely wouldn’t be able to handle, but, according to Boyle, it actually helped Trance be a better film.
Prior to the limited release of the new film this past weekend, I was given the wonderful opportunity to sit down with Boyle to discuss his latest work, and discuss not only how the Olympics impacted the filmmaking process, but the psychology of the three main characters, the fascinating use of primary colors, and the incredible soundtrack that he put together. Check it out!
WARNING: The following interview does contain some plot spoilers for Trance, so read carefully…
One thing I have always found fascinating when stories have three main characters is there’s often a comparison that can be made between the Freudian parts of the mind, the id, superego and ego. [Boyle laughs] With this movie, the characters of Simon, Franck and Elizabeth all match up with those perfectly. I’m just curious if that was something that was on your mind when you were making the film.
They talked about it in rehearsal. I don’t know enough about it, but we talked about it in rehearsals. The thing that came out of it, I remember, is that, and I don’t remember if it is part of this world, but it helped James to think that he had what was called an executive. I don’t think it’s called a super-objective. It’s an executive. There’s something in your brain and he used to say that it’s what helped you breathe. We don’t think about breathing. You just do it. You just do it. And it’s controlling that and he said it was this that what giving him clues that are represented by him [taps on the table] tapping on glass, like he’s telling him something is not right and also telling him you don’t known this woman and yet you’ve always loved her and you still love her. You’re still incredibly attracted to her and of course it was fucking with him, but it helped him to be able to... I remember when we were rehearsing and also when we were shooting that that’s how he would express it. He would say, that’s the executive speaking, [taps on the table again] there, like that. So, if we wanted a bit of executive, we would call for it.
Was there kind of that same kind of psychological analysis of Elizabeth and Franck as well?
Yeah, they have their own journeys to try and work out in this conundrum. Obviously, it’s a puzzle of their own making, but their own individual trajectories were complex about what they knew, what they didn’t know. She had a super complexity because obviously, she could be the source of great clues. Simon is full of clues, but they’re very, very obscure, opaque clues, because he can’t quite make enough of them. So, of course, we can and we don’t mind seeing them because we don’t understand them either, but if she gave clues, you’d begin to read it. So, she had to find reasons to hide the clues, if necessary and don’t to blanche when he walks back into her life, because part of him knew that he would walk back in. As a therapist, she knows that he will walk back in and that if he ever does choose a therapist for any other reason, he’ll choose her. Because what’s peculiar, people think it’s a plot point, what would be odd is if he didn’t choose her from all the list of therapists, because the executive is telling him, “Oh, you know that one. She’s the one. She’s good.” So, the executive wins again.
In terms of building the aesthetic of the film, in addition to being the three main characters, you also have a really interesting use of the primary colors, red, blue, and yellow, throughout the film. Can you talk about using those colors and also as they relate to the characters.
Part of the process was to try and very clearly delineate the physical spaces that either they belonged to or were important venues, like the club, like where the individuals live, because with a complex narrative like this, especially the fact that some of the sequences are only apparently happening and it was very important to know where you were very, very quickly. So rather than kind of realistically depict the social circumstances of a particular profession, what fine art historian wouldn’t have that kind of flat or a criminal wouldn’t live in that kind of place or a therapist from Harley Street wouldn’t have such an apartment, we said, “Ignore that. Just actually create psychological spaces that they live in.”
And obviously, that helped us to create reflective surfaces as well and we wanted them to be... Reflective surfaces are great for a film like this, because they are a natural part of your life. You don’t think the mirror, a mirror is a mirror, but the fact that you shoot him and there’s a reflection of him in the scene, it’s a signal your executive in the ordnance, this might not be quite what it seems. There are two or three or four images here and it’s not sure you should rely on that one as being the absolute reliable narrator is what it’s telling you and so you try to do it like that and you try to depict it in that way. You try to find a code that people pick up very quickly so they know where they are.