Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tuesday's (or actually Wednesday's) Overlooked Film: Trance (1998)

It's odd how cheap VHS cassettes are now: I found this in a trash bin at our yard, with some other TV-recorded cult items like Plan 9 from Outer Space and weirdish new movies, like Henry Selick's Monkey Bone. The only copies of the three first Star Wars movies (I mean the first actual three: Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, The Return of the Jedi) in our household came from the same batch.

Okay, to the movie: Trance (Muumion kosketus/The Touch of the Mummy in Finnish) is a strange horror film, shot with low budget, but with a decidedly artsy feel all the way through. The film deals with double identities (and it's fitting that Jorge Luis Borges gets mentioned in the thanks credits) and with how history repeats itself through generations. The film is very much like David Lynch's more impenetrable films like Lost Highway in its dream-like logic. There's not much backstory to the events in the film and the viewer is pretty much lost in the mist of the story.

This produces at times a nice, dark feeling, but the film suffers greatly from uninteresting characters, indifferent acting (there's Christopher Walken, but he doesn't have much time on screen) and implausible behaviour of the characters (plus the pretty inept special effects). The story doesn't have much depth to it, even though there's some supposedly deep stuff going on all the time. The film leaves the spectator baffled.

The director of Trance is one Michael Almereyda, whose best-known film seems to be a vampire film called Nadja (1994). Haven't seen that one, so can't comment. There's also Hamlet from 2000 with Ethan Hawke, set in the present day. Trance, called The Eternal on its DVD release, has only been released as direct-to-video in the USA, though it was shown at the Toronto Film Festival. The Finnish VHS release from 1999 veers towards blatant commercialism with a close-up of a (badly-done) mummy and shocking lines about the revenge of an ancient witch (with Walken's name and "Pulp Fiction" big in the cover). This film is commercially doomed from the start and the filmmakers knew it from the word go. It remains a fascinating failure.

More Tuesday's Overlooked Films at Todd Mason's blog here.


Todd Mason said...

You know, I didn't hate their HAMLET. It was amusing in part because as the third film in about five years in which Julia Stiles took on a role from the Bard, she was the most widely-seen Shakespearean actress in the world at that point (10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU and O being the other two, variations on THE TAMING OF THE SHREW and OTHELLO).

You must be careful what you pluck from the garbage, Juri...I think I still have my Beta tapes (only a few), but don't have a Beta machine any longer...hell, I had a Umatic machine and still have two Umatic tapes, of my tv show's two episodes...

Juri said...

Yeah, I seem to remember being vaguely interested in it, but then it didn't reach the Finnish screens. It was released here only on video.

I've still got plenty of VHS cassettes around here, this isn't even the only case where I find them in trash bins. One other load contained for example Dreyer's ORDET and other seldom-seen European art films. :O