Los Angeles– The grim, noirish view of director Danny Boyle’s London underworld has never seemed so far away than it does in the sunny suite of the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills. But here he is, enjoying the Southern California sunshine and discussing a much darker topic, his new psychedelic thriller, “Trance.” Spectacled, jolly, and very much unlike what one would expect of the man who created such horrific fever dreams such as “Trainspotting,” “28 Days Later” and “127 Hours,” Boyle’s primary concern is being able to talk about his latest movie without giving anything away.
“It’s impossible, isn’t it? “he said. “It’s impossible…My only hope, and I genuinely believe this, is that there is an amnesiac effect in cinema. I go into a movie and I know spoilers and stuff about it, but once it’s running I forget it. I mean, you know Tom Cruise isn’t going to die! But it isn’t a barrier to you, you can go and watch and think, ‘Oh my god, he might die!’”
But spoilers are a grimmer prospect for this genre-bending, time-warped noir tale of an art thief with his own case of amnesia (James McAvoy), a criminal who needs the thief’s memories (Vincent Cassel), and a hypnotherapist with hazy intentions who tries to recover them (Rosario Dawson). The characters’ fates, their motivations, their pasts, and their connections to each other shift continually until the last frame.
The shifting nature of the movie reflects Boyle’s recurring themes of memory, dreams and our sense of sanity. He considers “Trance” to be “the evil twin sister” of his earlier films “Slumdog Millionaire” and “127 Hours.”
“The last couple of films have been about memories.” Boyle mused. “‘Slumdog’ is about memories, ’127 Hours’ absolutely a memory film, his memories of his family lead him to his redemption. But ‘Trance’ is about the havoc that’s caused, the devastation that’s wreaked by the misuse, the interference of memories.”
Boyle is feeling more positive though, after his sojourn as the director of the Summer 2012 Olympic Games in London. He filmed “Trance” before the Games took over his life, then edited the film afterward, something he said put a fresh spin on his usual process.
“After the Olympics, I was concerned that we’d stopped,” he said. “Usually directors don’t get a break. I thought I’d never be able to forget it, but I did, which is a weird thing. As a director you tend to know too much all the time. So it was good to have this refresher, and see it with some distance.”
His favorite portions of making the movie were the hypnosis scenes with Dawson, who undertook extensive research into the science, and even was hypnotized herself in an attempt to create a naturalness to the scenes. According to Boyle, hypnosis is everywhere- even in the films and television we watch every day.
“Any director has a relationship with hypnosis,” he said, “because if you make a decent film, that’s what you’ve done. You’ve hypnotized the audience. And if you’ve made a good one, you know that feeling, you’re watching and you get lost and the real world goes out the window.”
Our apparently unreliable memories and elastic sense of reality are a director’s bread and butter. Aside from keeping spoilers at bay, Boyle says the magic of films is their ability to trick you into thinking you’re seeing something new.
“I realized recently that I basically make the same movie every single time,” he said, laughing. “There’s a guy, and he faces insurmountable odds, and he manages to get over them. It’s how you get there that fools people into thinking they’re not watching the same movie.”