Within the first ten minutes something struck me about Trauma, it’s not your average thriller\horror, well not in Hollywood anyway. There’s something different about it, you can see it in the cinematography, the directing and the writing, it’s more Asian than it is Hollywood and you’d be forgiven for thinking it came from the latest run of Asian Directors making Hollywood films, but that’s not the case.
The movie started off on a very strong foot with an excellent, and by all accounts well researched, script, and the rest of the team have just kept the quality up throughout. The visuals are very well crafted with some exciting camera techniques and are used as an active part of the storytelling with scenes relying on nothing but the visuals to explain, or confuse, the audience. Common themes and links are made throughout the story, with small clues, references and circular journeys.
There’s a very urban and modern feel to the movie, and the strong cinematography and lighting provide a natural, real feel to the world around the main character Ben who is played amazingly by the misused Colin Firth. His performance is unnerving, confusing and totally believable. You are drawn in to this character as he begins to try and piece his life together with you beside him at every step. Firth is almost in every scene and commands the screen without overpowering it. His co-star Mena Suvari does a good job standing with him, offering support and her belief in him without question, she also comes across as a natural but naive character. Again, very believable.
It’s some of the little touches in the movie, the misdirection and the often confusing messages from other characters and the visuals themselves that make this movie so intriguing. All the time you are pulled into Ben’s mind and are made to discover things as he does and see them through his eyes, true or not, you see things as he does.
Overall I really did like this movie. Everything about it from the sets to the camera techniques reminded me of a good Asian horror movie, something Hollywood has found it really hard to reproduce. It manages to unnerve and confuse throughout, and although some things may not be so surprising, others are. Yet you never truly know the answers, and I love it for that. The movie made me think, and keep thinking.
The DVD provides little in the way of extras, although I was most surprised to see an audio description track. This is where someone describes what is happening in the movie for those who are visually impaired. It’s an awful, monotonous track and I would have thought more care would have been put in trying to find someone who could give depth and tone to these descriptions, matching them with the mood of the scene. However I didn’t really need to watch it.
There is an featurette that covers a lot of the movie without giving too much away, and it provides some valuable insight with a lot of discussion from Firth himself. He says something that really sums up what this movie, and Asian cinema, is all about. The art of not showing something.
I love a ghost story as long as you don’t see too much of the Ghost, and the films really scare me are the ones that don’t give the game away. I tend to think that as soon as a Monster comes round the corner I go ‘Oh, thank God it’s only a Monster, I had something much worse in mind’. As soon as a Ghost is chasing you down the corridor you’re into Scooby Doo really.
I won’t miss out the audio commentary. It features the Director talking about the story and a few of the sets and themes throughout the movie, but he mainly concentrates on the story itself and filling around it, pointing out connections and themes as he goes. It does provide a lot more to the story and is an interesting watch to see the film a second time round. Actually I might like to give it a month or so and watch the movie again with all this knowledge, just to see how it feels a third time, knowing. Evans gives the nod to a lot of references to other movies which so clearly influenced this movie, for instance Honogurai mizu no soko kara (Dark Water) and Don’t Look Now.
I’d totally recommend the movie, and not just because Richard Smith is Scottish, but because it’s a really strong story, script and performances. The casting is superb, visuals, cinematography, techniques and lighting are all done with a slight quirkiness. It’s very reflective of a good Asian psychological horror, and stands out well from the Hollywood pile.