Danny Boyle is sitting on the stage at the Austin Convention Center in a blue shirt and khakis, breaking down the years of trial and torment and drugs and zombies he has unleashed over the years.
He’s come to the SXSW Festival to show off part of his new film Trance, which he says he described to the financiers as Memento meets Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
“That was a total lie, the kind you tell money people,” like the way he pitched Slumdog Millionaire as an Indian Amelie. “The great part of our deal with Fox Searchlight in the US and Pathe, who distribute our films in Europe, is that — while we do have a cap — within that we have a lot of freedom to f–k with genre.”
Which is exactly what he intends to do with Trance, a film he describes as about secrets and hypnosis and a stolen painting and three characters all of whom may or may not be the ‘bad guy.’
“If you watch the film chronologically it becomes apparent who he is,” Boyle says, but you won’t get that chance in the theater. Instead you’ll be left trying to put the pieces together and hopefully being overwhelmed by the experience.
“We don’t go into dark rooms to discuss films, we go to experience them,” he says, alluding to the experience of seeing Apocalypse Now for the first time and deciding to become a director instead of a priest.
That turned into just the beginning of a long road twisting through theater before finally coming to film in his late 30s.
It is that nature of experimentalism he has embraced as a director and which he seems intent on delving into further than ever in Trance.
“We did a lot of research into hypnotism — about 5 percent of the population is highly susceptible which is what hypnotists look for — and while everything you’re about to see is ethically dubious, it is possible,” Boyle says.
With that the lights come down and a major scene from Trance comes up.
Warning!! Potential Major Spoilers Below!
James McAvoy is in a parking garage, trying very hard to light Vincent Cassel on fire. He covers the car Cassel is tied to with gasoline despite the teary protests of Rosario Dawson. Unable to take it any longer she runs off while McAvoy fires a pistol into the gasoline trail he has laid, starting the conflagration.
Desperate, Cassel dogs around for his keys, using them to cut free of his bonds, but too late to get out of his car before the fire spreads. McAvoy fires continually into the car to keep Cassel’s head down and body in place.
As the fire grows so hot the plastic begins to melt, Dawson careens into the garage driving a wrecker, headed straight for McAvoy and the burning car.
Remembering a computer message, McAvoy spreads his arms and repeats it “Bring it to me.” She does, pinning McAvoy to the burning car with the truck, pushing both out of the garage and over an embankment into the water below in one of the trailers signature images.
Cassel splashes about as water fills the car and just as he is on the verge of drowning …
He awakens and pops up in a pool some other place and some other time. Was he remembering something that happened or seeing the future? Or is it all a creation of Dawson’s professional hypnotist?
Boyle isn’t telling. The only way to know for sure is to see Trance when it opens this spring.