disoriented, Ben (Colin
Firth) awakes from a coma in hospital to discover that he has been in a
car crash. When he learns that his wife Elisa (Naomie Harris) was
in the accident, his world might as well have ended. To make things
the outside world is obsessed with the very public death of pop star
Parris. When this death turns out to be murder, media saturation
leaving Ben to deal with his grief alone. Out of hospital and
to start a new life, Ben moves home and starts visiting Dr. Manor, a
whom it transpires, saw him as a child after the death of his parents.
He also picks up with an old friend Tommy (Tommy Flanagan), who takes
on his grieving friend, particularly since Elisa's family want nothing
to do with him. Meanwhile, Ben is befriended by his beautiful young
Charlotte (Mena Suvari). One evening, she invites him to a public
with a well-regarded medium, Petra (Brenda Fricker). Ben, who has begun
to be haunted by eerie visions of Elisa, takes up the invitation with
results. “Is he sad or is he mad?” Trauma is a gripping
thriller with Hitchcockian twists.
(Scriptwriting and Script Reading in the UK, July 18, 2007)
was the inspiration behind Trauma, and was it your first spec script?
I’ve actually never written a
spec script. TRAUMA was commissioned from a five-page treatment—which was enormously brave (or foolish?)
of Little Bird (ed: through their horror label, Ministry of Fear),
considering that I’d never written feature-length before. It was the
clashing together of two ideas, neither of which quite worked on their
own. I’d become interested in people who start hearing voices in their
heads after experiencing exceptional trauma, and I was interested in
putting an audience through the disorientation that follows. I still
needed a compelling hook (that all-conquering ‘what if’ question) and
realised that I’d already found it in a different idea. Marrying them
together was an explosion of the bleeding obvious—and could have saved me months of
anguish and self-doubt...
tell us a bit about the experience, e.g. was it quickly sold, or did it
do the rounds, or did it languish in development hell for a while, etc?
It was probably as close to
development heaven as I’ll ever experience. It was rocket-fast. It took
just eighteen months from a five-page treatment to first day of shoot.
There was a lot of faith in the project, and a serious burn to get it
made; it was proof to me that there has to be a serious—and powerful—driving force behind a film. You can’t
expect money to appear from nowhere, and you have to go out with total
belief. On my second draft, we got Marc Evans (director) on board—which quickly led to Colin Firth, Mena
Suvari and full finance (around £6m). We were in prep before I
you learn, good and bad, from the whole process?
Well, it gave me a false
impression of the efficiency of development; it made me wonder why
everyone was moaning about the time it takes to get things done! But I
wouldn’t have had it any other way—it’s given me belief. I learned a lot
about collaboration and re-writing, and the realities (and constraints)
of the job. It gave me the opportunity to work with incredible people
with real integrity. It taught me to enjoy prep—when everyone’s raving about the script—because you’ll quickly go from King to
tourist. I join the ranks of the many in bemusement about the writer’s
involvement/status when it comes to production, post and release. The
writer’s input should be paramount, not avoided.
Region 2 DVD Release on Feb 21, 2005
Warner has officially
announced Trauma, which stars Colin Firth and Mena Suvari, will be will
be available to own from the 21 February 2005. The retail price will be
set at around £15.99. As well as a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen
transfer and English Dolby Digital 5.1 track, the disc will include an
audio commentary with director Mark Evans and Colin Firth, a making of
featurette and the films theatrical trailer. The DVD can be
preordered from amazon.co.uk here.
(Click on image for larger version)
(The Guardian, Oct 12, 2004, by Mark Salisbury)
spooky locations go, St
Pancras Chambers is among the spookiest. With its vaulted ceilings,
peeling wallpaper, long, dim corridors and dank basement, the Victorian
Gothic building—once the Midland Grand hotel, now Grade
I-listed—reeks of must and menace. A perfect
place, in other words, to film a psychological horror chiller such as
is why, on a cold morning last June, Colin Firth is skulking the
building's corridors looking more like a tramp than the heartthrob that
Pride and Prejudice made him. Dressed in scruffy jeans and jacket, he
looks dishevelled and downbeat....
"It is much more about mind
games and paranoia and what might be frightening and what might be
menacing," says Firth, during a break in filming. "There will be a bit
of boo as well. It's unashamedly trying to mess with your mind a bit."
So how does Firth go about playing a man who is not in control of his
senses? "If you're playing a character who can't distinguish reality
from fantasy, you have to use your judgment," he explains. "If
something seems real to you, you have to play it as if it's real. So in
some ways it's perfectly simple. He thinks his wife's dead and then he
sees her; thinks maybe she's alive, but he's not sure. You have to
think yourself into that situation; it can be a fairly freaky thing.
You certainly can't play a thing called madness, because nobody thinks
According to Firth, the
building is more than simply a visual metaphor for his character's
descent into madness: its unsettling ambience has even seeped into his
performance. "It's doing all the work today as far as I'm concerned,"
he says. "It looks paranoiac, if you light it right. So in many ways
these are my days off. It's very rare that as an actor, you get any of
the stimuli that your character would get, but they've managed to make
the atmosphere so creepy at times."
was always been one of his favourites, Firth admits. "I'd been dying to
get inside. It kind of surpasses expectations because it is just as
kind of gloomy and ghostly as I'd hoped it would be, but is also more
magnificent than I imagined. You can see squares where nasty paint has
been taken off and underneath there's a piece of extraordinary
Edwardian wallpaper." Of plans to renovate the building as a luxury
hotel, he says: "In a way it's almost a pity to do anything with it. It
feels like what it must be like if you could go down on the Titanic."
[Read full article here]
Evans: Director's Diary 7
Not a good start to the week. Jonathan Ross on Film
2004 called Trauma the worst film he'd seen all year. Stephen Daldry
called to say that he'd said that about The Hours too, which made me
feel better. There is some solidarity amongst British directors after
all, bound together at least in the knowledge of how difficult it is to
make a film. Whereas the British press seem united only in one thing:
to slag off British directors. If you don't believe me, see the reviews
afforded myself, Michael Winterbottom and Ken Loach this week.
"WHATEVER ANYBODY TELLS YOU: CRITICISM HURTS"
I don't know whether it's a good thing to be out here at the Toronto
Festival screening Trauma while it opens in cinemas in the UK. I feel
strangely dislocated, even though I know that there is little I can do
for the film on the week of its release. Except obssess about the
reviews and worry about attendances. OK, there is something potentially
exciting about paying to go and see your film at your local cinema on
the night that it opens but that excitement can soon turn to depression
if there is hardly anybody else in the auditorium. And if the reviews
are bad, it can all get pretty demoralising. Whatever anybody tells
you: criticism hurts. The whole process can throw flattery and insult
at you in equal measure; force you to question your vanity and
challenge your self-belief.
The Toronto Festival experience certainly errs on the side of flattery.
Visiting film-makers are welcomed here with open arms and the films are
shown in huge theatres which are invariably sold out. Best of all, the
crowds are made up almost totally of Torontonians, ordinary people with
a massive hunger and enthusiasm for the films. So there is an element
of schizophrenia induced on Friday - the day of the Toronto screening
as well as the UK release - as I try to absorb the bad reviews Trauma
receives back home (oh yes, there are some stinkers!) while
simultaneously facing enthusiastic journalists and TV interviewers here
in Canada. I tell myself that I must adopt an outwardly positive
attitude, however vulnerable I am feeling, and talking to these people
who have come from as far as Russia and Australia to interview me has a
certain theraputic effect. I imagine a Trauma poster hanging beneath a
chandelier in a Moscow underground station, with the title in Russian
script. This cheers me up and almost makes me forget about the Siberia
that I have been sent to by most of the British press earlier in the
As the interviews proceed however, I become aware that my family and
friends back home are dutifully going out to see Trauma at their local
cinemas. I imagine them sitting there watching it. Then I make a few
calls to discover that the screenings have not been very well attended.
Then I decide not to punish myself any further. My technique for this
is a simple one. I remind myself that it is far more heroic to be
unpopular than popular. I mean, who would I rather be: Johnny Rotten or
Barry Manilow? Well neither actually (especially after I'm A Celebrity
Get Me Out Of Here!). But surely it's more exciting to be alternative
than mainstream? I remind myself that Luis Buñuel spent years in
exile in Mexico, that Michael Powell's Peeping Tom was condemned to the
gutter on its release and that Terence Malick's Badlands had the worst
test results ever. Then I have a drink and propose a toast to Jonathan
Ross. It seems to work.
"I WANT TO HAVE YOUR BABY!"
Going to dinner with a bunch of friends and survivors from the British
film industry only makes things better. The most important thing, above
all others probably, is never to loose your sense of humour and luckily
for me Colin Firth has arrived in town with his intact (I thought
actors were meant to be the neurotic ones, not directors!?). His
presence at the screening, yet again, makes a difference. If you can
produce a star or two from your movie, the audiences are really on your
side and the red carpet treatment we receive on arrival at The Ryerson
Theatre is overwhelming. Flash bulbs and TV cameras, screaming fans. "I
want to have your baby!" shouts one during one of Colin's interviews.
It's great fun. And after all the introductions and applause, the
lights go down and there's silence. Showing your film to an attentive
full house of over a thousand people is really quite thrilling. You can
feel the collective heat of the crowd in the darkness. It transforms
the cinema experience, which on a rainy afternoon in an empty
auditorium can seem like a very solitary and internal one, into
something more communal and theatrical. It's probably how cinema felt
in earlier, less critical times. I am swept up in the moment and I'm
glad that I came.
So, with the screening over I find myself basking in reflected glory
rather than wallowing in self-pity. And there's a party too! See what I
mean about schizophrenia? It's certainly been a week of mood swings.
And of course there's plenty left to worry about; the weekend press for
a start and the opening weekend's figures... but luckily, by Saturday
morning, I have other things on my mind. Like my hangover. And my next
Evans: Director's Diary 4
Questions, questions, it's been a week of questions. First
there was the premiere at Edinburgh and then screenings at the NFT and
Manchester Cornerhouse, all followed by a Q&A session. Then came
the press junket in London. A thoroughgoing investigation into the
world of Trauma! A cathartic process in some respects and occasionally
fun. But you do get tired of "talking a good game", and bored with the
sound of your own voice. Shouldn't a film speak for itself?
"COLIN IS FUNNY, OPEN AND HONEST"
I have to remind myself that I, like the journalists, am only doing my
job and that the paying audiences actually want to be here. This is not
school assembly! And of course a good answer relies, to a certain
extent, on a good question. Inevitably, a lot of the questions have
been about Colin's involvement in the film and the sessions have been
easier and livelier when he has been present. Though he is even more
suspicious of this kind of attention than me (and gets plenty more of
it), he has been a lucid and enthusiastic speaker; funny, open and
Colin's biggest fear is having "to sit on a couch in a TV studio and be
witty". He avoids television chatshows like the plague. I think this is
a wise policy for someone whose natural mode of communication is honest
These shows can seem trivial and silly, and part of Colin's attraction
to many of his fans is a Darcy-like mystique that comes from keeping a
certain distance. There are some other 'celebs' out there who might do
well to understand the value of UNDER-EXPOSURE. But I suppose it's a
question of outlook, on whether they see themselves as actors who have
achieved celebrity or as celebrities who act. The reality is that every
decision a celebrity makes contributes towards their image, good or
bad; it's a velvet trap.
The questions fired at Colin by audiences over the last week have been
sometimes banal ("Were those ants real?"), but have more often revealed
a detailed (obsessive?) knowledge of his career - for example, his role
in Martin Donovan's 1988 film Apartment Zero has come up a few times,
and on one occasion even his appearance in the TV drama Master Of The
Moor - which I directed over ten years ago. In other words, they have
been well-meaning and well-informed.
Better informed than some of the journalists, who have expressed
surprise at his choice of the role of Ben. A career departure, surely,
and very different from what he has done before? Well, NO ACTUALLY!
Look at some of his work before and after Darcy and you will see he has
played a whole range of disenchanted, alienated outsiders: in Another
Country (1984) and A Month In The Country (1987), for example, and in
the TV dramas Tumbledown and Conspiracy. For every Bridget Jones's
Diary there has been darker stuff. (His next project, Where The Truth
Lies, to be directed by Canada's Atom Egoyan, sounds very much in this
"STARS GET MOVIES MADE"
It is surprising, then, that so many journalists have suggested that
Ben must be "a bit of a stretch" for Colin. As if playing an alienated
art school dropout living in today's London is so much harder than
playing an 18th century aristocrat who owned half of England and rode
around on a horse! He is actually closer to Ben than the roles that
have made him famous. Ben lives in Hackney, as Colin did before he
became successful. He is an art school dropout, as Colin Firth might
have become had he not found himself a career. OK, you'd need to swap
that for drama school dropout, but you get my drift. In his own words,
"there by the grace of God go I!" (check out his interview with Simon
Mayo on FIVE LIVE).
Which brings me on to the thorny subject of celebrity and casting. In
an ideal world, all actors should be unknown because this allows the
audience an open mind in terms of the characters they present on
screen. Being unknown allows an actor to present the character
ambiguously and, if necessary, appear inconspicuous in a way that a
star never can. But stars get movies made and bring people into the
cinema. The fact that they have agreed to be in your film is also an
endorsement of it, commanding respect from the crew and attracting
other good actors to the project. And when they turn out to be
likeable, hard-working, cooperative human beings like Colin Firth and
Mena Suvari, then I have no complaints!
I am hoping with Trauma, that the public's perception of Colin will
actually add to their enjoyment of the film. People trust him because
of the other parts he has played and audiences, especially in Britain,
feel that they own him, seeing him as an actor of integrity. They will
therefore expect him to be honest and true, and want his character to
be good. Or at least not want him to be bad.
Hitchcock was the master of this kind of audience manipulation often
using "good men" in his lead roles, challenging the audience to trust
them despite evidence to the contrary. James Stewart comes to mind in
Vertigo. You follow his progress through the film, trusting him to be a
"decent chap", and it is therefore more shocking when things are not
quite as they seem, when his world becomes disturbingly off-kilter. In
fact, his character in Vertigo is quite odd if you analyse it. As is
Colin's in Trauma. And so the audience must decide: is he sad, mad or
On the Radio
Press from the Edinburgh Fest
British actor Colin Firth
was greeted by a hoard of female fans when he appeared at the premier
of his latest film, Trauma.
Scotland Today's film critic Grant Lauchlan asked him if he though it
was anything to do with the parts he has played, like Mr Darcy, who he
played in a recent adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.
He said: "I remember what life was like before that, it wasn't
happening so it's entirely to do with that. It's all a bit phony
really. I did look in front of the mirror a couple of times to figure
it out but it was all too depressing."
Watch the video
* * *
On the film,
Firth said: “Often when you’re doing
dark stuff like this you just have a laugh most of the time.
“One is almost embarrassed to admit that when you are doing all this
angst you are having the time of your life.
“It is comedy that makes you go home depressed.”
And on his tag as a sex symbol, he added: “When I’m doing a job I
become almost psychotically involved in the job to the exclusion of
“I just don’t think about what happened before.
am aware that when I work now I am bringing baggage with me as far as
other people are concerned, but it is not really in my mind when I work.
“In some ways I feel it is a return to what I used to do.”
Press Association by Hilary Duncanson)
Dark Stuff (by Alan Jones
for The List's Edinburgh Festival Guide)
While he may be
best known for playing 19th-century gentlemen and respectable love
interests, Firth doesn’t see this grimy role as an absolute departure.
“Marc and I go back a long way,” he explains. “We worked together on
the Ruth Rendell TV movie Master of
the Moor and I thought he was brilliant. While Trauma may seem a departure from
what I’m now known for, it isn’t really. I was appearing in quirky
features like Tumbledown
about the horrors of war, and Apartment
Zero about the human psyche’s dark side, way before I took on
Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.
So I feel I’m going back to my roots that were my territory in the
It hasn’t always been plain sailing.
“I’ve had to constantly be reminded by Marc where I am in the story at
any given time. Because Trauma
is being done from the perspective of looking out from inside Ben’s
head, in order for me to understand how I relate, I’ve got to know what
he’s going to show the audience as I don’t see much with the naked eye.
I also have to know if the scene is being over-cranked or under-cranked
so I know how to modulate my performance because I don’t want to end up
doing something totally inconsistent with the way I’m being
photographed. All the visual trickery is being done in-camera, which is
a relief as I’m not one of those actors who could tolerate dangling
from wires in front of a green screen having to react to nothing.”
Both Firth and
Evans are keen to locate the movie in a tradition of psychological
horror films. “Marc is not shy of the generic aspects of Trauma and his love of Repulsion gives you a rough idea of
the psychological zone we’re in,” says Firth. “The moment I read
‘cracks suddenly appear in the wall,’ I thought of the Roman Polanski
film, which also deals with a lonely person in a big city apartment.
Ben’s place is a converted hospital ward, which adds further resonance
to the plot. And I haven’t even mentioned being covered in ants for
some scenes— another significant symbol in the overall scheme of
What he may say about his
past roles, mainstream audiences will no doubt be perturbed by Firth’s
move into the dark. Evans thinks he’s up to the job. “Colin is
Britain’s best serious actor,” he explains. “I needed him to make the
film appeal to the broadest audience. My
Little Eye was a tough ride and it alienated many people. It
satisfied hardcore horror fans but didn’t cross-over into the
mainstream. I want Trauma to
do that and hope Colin shifting around the tapestry of psychological
moods created in-camera will work. All I can wish for is that the
audience understands Ben’s tenuous instability. If they like Ben, and
fear for him, but aren’t sure if they can trust him, I’ve achieved my
aim. For therein lies the trick of the entire film. (Read full
Online interviews with Marc Evans
There are several interviews with Marc Evans, which talk about Trauma,
plus a multi-part Director's Diary on the BBC's film site that make for
interesting reading. They are:
More to come
A modern Vertigo,
with a twist of Lynch
(The Telegraph, Aug 14, 2004,
by Mike Monahan)
Evans is now back with a fresh box of
strange thrills, Trauma.
Entirely British-funded, it stars Colin Firth as Ben, who awakes from a
coma in a London hospital to find that he has been in a car crash and
that his wife, Elisa (Naomie Harris) is dead. It turns out that, while he is grieving
in private, the rest of the world is lamenting the recent murder of pop
star Lauren Parris. The plot thickens further when it emerges that Ben
may in some way be linked to Parris's death, his wife very much alive,
and his grasp on reality fragile at best—and, when new neighbour Charlotte (a
luminous Mena Suvari) appears, we soon wonder if she is even real.
Although similar in intensity
to My Little Eye, Trauma is nevertheless a very
different animal. "My Little Eye was about looking very brutally
through an objective camera, at these five people," says Evans, when we
meet in London, "almost as if they were lab rats.
"But the stylistically
interesting thing about Trauma was that we're looking at it all from
the point of view of this poor main character, who's in every scene. So
it seemed a chance to make a subjective film—what was it like to be this man, this
sort of troubled character?"
In some ways, Trauma comes across as a very
modern Vertigo. Ben is in a
grim state, but this is after all Colin Firth—Mr Darcy! Much like James Stewart in
Hitchcock's masterpiece, we are at once reluctant to believe that he
has anything other than sanity and rectitude at his core, while also
harbouring the faint worry that he might be about to plunge headlong
into the abyss. Is this what Evans had in mind?
"Absolutely," says the
garrulous, charming 45-year-old, his accent betraying his south-Wales
origins. "I'd long thought, whatever happened to those man-in-a-suit
films? Trauma's not quite that—it's a man-in-a-hooded-top film, really—but it's a basically Hitchcockian film
of the man that you rely upon, on whose side you 'know' you're going to
"I thought that Colin
post-Darcy could bring all that with him, in a Henry Fonda kind of way.
But you start to question him as you do with Fonda in Vertigo: is he a reliable narrator?"
As his fleeting muddle over
Fonda/Stewart suggests, Evans has an engaging conversational knack for
getting names wrong. As a director, however, he could not be more
meticulous. Like My Little Eye,
Trauma has an evenness of tone and an absolute refusal to let
the audience relax that will not be to everyone's taste, but which are
The film is an extraordinary
collage of bleak London cityscapes and neurotic, intimate close-ups—brilliantly shot by John Mathieson,
Ridley Scott's cinematographer of choice, and beautifully scored by
Touching the Void's Alex Heffes. It feels the work of a man who admires
not just Hitchcock, but David Lynch too.
"Well," says Evans, "that's
the biggest compliment you can pay me! When I think of David Lynch, I
also think of his lineage, and part of that is Surrealism. And whenever
I start making a film, there are pictures I stick on the wall, and the
one I chose for this was by [Italian Surrealist] De Chirico.
"He does something with these
railway bridges and colonnades that scares the shit out of you, and I
was trying to think, how does he do that? And what is scary about the
guy in Lynch's Eraserhead walking under the concrete bridge?
"There's something about
bridges, and lone objects in gutters—it
comes out of, if you like, the Surrealist handbook, of which Lynch is
the greatest living exponent. It's just the stuff I like, the stuff of
nightmares, and I aspired to work that into the film."
Marc Evans interview for BBC (by Stella
is very uncomfortable to watch. Are you worried about the way audiences
will receive it?
Well, that's the danger with this
kind of film. You want to make it intriguing and odd and all that
stuff, but you don't want to alienate the audience. I suppose,
basically, you have to make sure that it doesn't put people off too
much. But I think people will accept a weird film if they know it's
going to be a weird film.
You've developed a reputation
for dark films, even earning the nickname Dark Marc...
Yeah, that's Tommy
Flanagan [actor and friend] who called me that! I suppose what it is—weird
though it may sound—you don't choose your films in a strategic or
career-minded way. You just find stories that interest you and some get
made and some don't. So there is this haphazard element to it. The
other thing is, I'm not really interested in making naturalistic films.
And if you're not doing slice-of-life type movies, you've got to look
at areas where you can play around a bit. The thing about a horror film
or a psychological thriller is that it's expected to be original and
odd in the way that you deal with the storytelling. Like with My Little
Eye, the idea of telling a story with webcams was as interesting to me
as the story itself.
What was it about this story
that got your creative juices flowing?
I was very
interested in the fact that it's actually about Colin Firth's
character. He is in every scene so it's about his world and what's
underlying his world, it's a very subjective type of film. It's not
true to say it's totally from his point of view, but the world we're
presenting is the world as he sees it. I had just done a film where it
was all about an objective point of view—My
Little Eye was about being a voyeur—and this was a
chance to do something very different, seeing the world through the
eyes of someone who's falling apart mentally.
As far as the
story is concerned, I was interested in the kind of character that you
might sit opposite on the Tube in London—where
you see something in his eyes that disturbs you but you can always get
off at the next stop. It seems to me that London is such a big, dirty
city in that respect—full of these people who live in bedsits or
flats, who would probably be OK if they lived in a more caring
Do you have to be an outsider to
pick up on that London vibe?
I don't know,
maybe. But coming from the outside also made London a very exciting
place to be, so it's not that I'm down on London particularly. I think
it's just about getting older, when you're not only seeing that
optimistic side of the city—where it's all
about the thrill of the hurly burly—but also that
downside where someone like Ben (Colin Firth) can slip through the
cracks. I know it's a very melancholic sort of theme but it's an
interesting thing for me to elevate that character and make him the hero—or
anti-hero—of his world.
This is a very different role
from the suave characters that we've come to associate with Colin
Firth. Why did you cast him?
The thing with
Colin was that I did a television job with him about ten years ago now,
one of those bog- standard Ruth Rendell things, and they call her stuff
"why dunnit" rather than "whodunit" because it's very psychological and
full of dark characters. I remembered how good he was in that and,
because he's in every scene, I needed someone who's sympathetic enough
that the audience wouldn't mind spending so much time with him—and
Colin is that actor. He's got an integrity but also a mystery about him.
Actually we had a
conversation and Colin said, "Isn't it interesting how people never
make films about a man in a suit anymore?", like the Hitchcock films
with someone in his 40s or 50s thrown into a deadly situation. In a way
that slightly older Everyman, as opposed to the 20-year-old hero, is
something we don't do much in Britain anymore. So in a way, although
Ben isn't really that ordinary man, we thought it would be a chance to
do that film.
Wasn't the part originally
written for someone younger?
Yes, but only
because the writer [Richard Smith] is only about 24 so he's inclined to
write about someone who's his own age. That would have worked in one
way, but there's something more melancholy about someone who's a bit
older, I think, because he's had bit of rough and tumble in his life,
you know? That litany of wrong turns is the tragedy of the common man.
You've also cast Mena Suvari in
a role that's very different to everything else she's done...
Yeah, it is an
interesting choice. But I think Charlotte had to be angelic and have a
lightness about her for us to be able to fall into Ben's idea that
possibly she might be an entity. And she's just incandescent, she's one
of those actors who does very little but brings a lot. It's like she
has this ethereal otherness. She's got that down.
What do you hope that people
ultimately take away from watching this film?
I'm hoping that
they enjoy its ambiguities rather than get frustrated by them. I think
this is the type of film that will lead to a really interesting and
heated conversation in the pub afterwards. Genre films are really good
when they can do that—if you can have an argument with your mate about
it afterwards, that's getting value for money!
Sundance Updates: Jan 23, 2004
In the Telegraph,
David Gritten noted the "fragmented style demanding close attention..."
and concluded that "Evans's film is bracing and original, though some
the Sundance audience found it hard to fathom."
Calhoun of The Times wrote:
The only British
a world premiere at Sundance is Trauma, the Welsh director Marc Evans’s
first film since his claustrophobic horror debut My Little Eye. It’s
the scriptwriting debut of a 25-year-old Scot, Richard Smith. Colin
sheds his usual safe cocoon to play Ben, a man wrestling with mental
in a distinctly unfriendly vision of London.
While Kevin Williamson of
Sun interviewed Mena Suvari, who said “I couldn’t have lucked out
better working with Colin. He was so passionate about the project and
eager to give his insight into what he wanted. But in the same breath,
he’d ask me what I wanted and if I was OK with things. I really
it. It’s something I’ve never really had before.”
Trauma is a mind game
of a movie.
It’s troubling, intense and puzzling, all of which are bolstered by the
visual sense of Evans and his cinematographer John Mathieson, who allow
Ben’s fragility to seep into the very core of the film through
From the BBC reporter's
Menu Suvari and director Mark Evans, not much new. Mainly described the
meeting and asked for confirmation of information in article ("Dark
below. A few excerpts:
about working with Firth, and approving of the laidback mode of British
filmmaking—"very calm, very relaxed," she told me—apparently a big
from Hollywood and its time-is-money ethos. But when I asked whether
had appealed to some previously unseen "darker side", she turned coy,
her shoulders and giving me the cutesy flim-flam: "Who me? Really? I
Read Stella Papamichael's
full account here.
Also an AICN contributor gave Traume 2-1/2 stars; read the account here.
With the London-based
says he wanted to explore the psyche of those people who "sit on the
and "live in bedsits". It was also moulded by a long conversation he
with Colin Firth about revisiting the "man in the suit" genre, the kind
of Hitchcock thriller that got "beneath the skin and scratched around"
(see Vertigo).... "It's definitely not a summer movie," Marc told me
a wry smile.
If Marc Evans was told
that he had
to make a film in Wales every year on a small-to-medium budget, he
be perfectly happy. No dreams of Hollywood or working in America, just
an idealised view of an old socialist-style working film system....
Braving the torrential
rain of a
miserable Cardiff Sunday, the tall, 44-year-old director patiently has
his photographs taken before we settle down for a coffee. He is a bit
after drinking lots of grappa with his family the night before. So with
last night's stubble, slight greying at the temples and a thick parka
bulking him up, Evans looks a little imposing.
His nickname is Dark
Marc, due to
his propensity to make frightening films, but once he opens his mouth
is friendly and amenable. Once you start him on topics such as his
or his other love—music—he is off. And he can talk and talk.
He is getting ready to
take his new
film, Trauma to the Sundance Festival, hosted by Robert Redford. The
time he was there, in 1997, he took his first film, House of America,
while he might just want to watch instead of promote Trauma, if the
press falls in love with it, it will surely spell success....
Trauma, starring Colin
Mena Suvari, tells the tale of a man waking from a coma to find he has
lost his wife in a car crash. Plunging into grief, he experiences a
of mental illness and struggles to cope while the rest of the world is
coming to terms with its own loss—a young, adulated pop star who people
never knew personally.
In the programme for the
Festival, a note has been added about Trauma which lumps the film into
a category called "post 9/11 films". Evans hadn't thought about his
in that way. "Really, the film is about an ordinary man in
situations. "The rest of the world is dealing with the grief of this
they do not know and he is trying to cope with this personal death."
Firth was easy to get on
a pleasure for Evans to work with. "Colin was quite anxious to shed the
Darcy role, and shirt, so he was up for it. What actor does not want to
be in every scene of a film?"
But Firth was never meant
to be in
the film—it was written for a younger man. However, Evans immediately
of him when he read the script. "I worked with Colin on Ruth Rendell's
Master of the Moor and I have always known he has a dark side. We sort
of became friends and he was bemoaning the fact that people do not do
'man in a suit' film anymore. So when I read the script I thought of
as he was looking for the darker material. He said yes straight away."
With Firth on board the
had more selling power but American actress Mena Suvari was brought in
initially to get more funding. Evans is candid about what is needed to
get a movie shot and out in the cinemas and does not gloss over the
process. "We needed Mena for the money and originally I did not know
much about her. She looks like an angel. She is the American Beauty.
she is dark as hell. She was reading a book on the Yorkshire Ripper and
she had been to visit a pathology museum. That interested me, she looks
like an angel but was darker." Evans screened My Little Eye for Suvari
and her husband, cinematographer Robert Brinkmann, to give them an
into his work, before the 24-year old actress signed up. The L'Oreal
is quite picky with her roles, so it was another coup for Evans to have
her on board. "That made me respect her, she did this because she
to. She was delightful to work with."
Moving from a group of
in My Little Eye to the famous faces in Trauma was easy for Evans,
the cast were down to earth. "I was never nervous with the people I
with. Colin was a dream. In his view some of the romantic comedies he
miserable on, but in this film he was covered in ants and he had a
The film was also a joy
to work on
for Evans because he got to work with Oscar-winning Gladiator
John Mathieson. Here he goes off into great detail about lenses and the
different technical shots, before apologising for being "geeky".
Amicable and eager to
about Firth, Evans recalls what the Bridget Jones actor told him about
filming Conspiracy, the drama about how senior Nazis met to decide on
Final Solution, the murder of up to six million Jews. Firth and the
of the cast apparently spent their spare time camping it up in Nazi
as the only way they could cope with the heavy subject matter.
Evans is a passionate
not in it for the fame or money. Although he can play the game to get a
film made. "Directing is like being given a train set and the chance to
play with it.
"As I have got older I
that it is quite hard to get films made, so it is a precious
Ever since he decided to
be a director
he has striven to make the kind of films which he would like to see in
the cinema. Whether this means it is a niche market for those people
enjoy an uneasy cinematic ride, he does not seem to care. The
director has clear ideas about what cinema is, and what it should do.
"I go to have an outer
for it to take me somewhere I have never been before—I don't want a
to be normal or see something I already know—those are the films I
to make." Wanting a film to make him feel uncomfortable, it is
that he loves Hitchcock and has a soft spot for David Lynch....
"When I was younger, I
that made me empathise with something horrible. But as you get older
pushes you less and less, but there is a certain point in that film
you go, 'Oh my god'....
But, either by default or
doing, it seems that A Marc Evans Film will always be dark. "Someone
my films always end with a death or someone walking away—that's true."
Firth on Evans
Bridget Jones star Colin
the chance to appear in a darker film, but it was working with the
director that made the process worthwhile.
Firth said, "Marc and I
on the Ruth Rendell TV movie Master of the Moor and I thought he was
So I wanted to join him again but our numerous attempts never quite
"Then Trauma came out of
and intrigued me enough to sign on to what was clearly going to be an
journey. My main motivation for doing anything these days is to work
people I have always wanted to collaborate with and this seemed the
opportunity for us." (Western
Mail, 1/17/04, by Claire Hill)
Pre-Sundance Q&A with Marc Evans
Q. When you were
film, did you have Sundance in mind?
Since Sundance took my first
I have always felt warmly towards it and it certainly has a certain
credibility, which I like. To be honest though I didn't really think
festivals while shooting.
Q. How did you get
your film started?
How did you go from script to finished product?
The script came to me from
Francke's new horror outfit "Ministry Of Fear"—a new initiative to make
genre films, set up by Little Bird in London. I had just made "My
Eye", a digital horror film so I guess the timing was fortuitous. The
the first by young Scottish writer Richard Smith, was in pretty good
Then we worked on it together some more and the film came together
quickly after that. It seemed to be a good time for genre in the UK,
this is not really a horror. More psychological.
Q. What¹s the one
lesson you learned while making this film?
The importance of casting.
Q. When you were in
did you find yourself watching other great movies in preparation?
"Don't look now"/ "Dark
Colours Blue"—three great films about grief.
Q. Two parter—which
you cut off an arm to work with, and which relatively unknown actor on
your own film do you want the world to start recognizing sooner rather
Well, really, Colin Firth
(in Trauma) is up there. He is seriously good. As for unknowns, Trauma
does not apply being a fairly small, distinguished cast. However Alison
David who sings in the film (taking on the persona of murdered pop star
Lauren Parris) deserves wider recognition. (efilmcritic,
1/9/04, by Chris Parry)
On Location: London
What if you woke up from
a coma following
a car accident that killed your wife and found the country mourning for
a celebrity, like, say, Princess Diana, or a pop star? How would your
measure up to the grief of a nation? Thus begins Trauma, a
thriller in which a widower (Colin Firth) starts seeing his dead wife
his creepy new apartment; meanwhile, his ethereal neighbor (Mena
begins introducing him to the spirit world.
"You don't know if she's
not." Suvari says of her character.
"It's about someone whose
him to a kind of madness," says director Marc Evans (My Little Eye) ,
location at London's run-down St. Pancras Chambers, perhaps best known
as the point of departure for the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter
"It reminded me a little
bit of paranoia
films I liked in the '70s, some of the Polanski films and Don't Look
Firth says. "It's unashamedly trying to mess with your mind." (Premiere,
Firth returns to his roots
Firth revealed, "Trauma
seem a departure from what I'm now known for but I was appearing in
features like Tumbledown about the horrors of war, and Apartment
Zero about the human psyche's dark side way before I took on Darcy.
Ben is the sort of role that was my territory in the early days. Marc
I worked together on the Ruth Rendell TV movie Master of the Moor
and I thought he was brilliant. So I wanted to join him again but our
attempts never quite panned out. Then Trauma came out of
and intrigued me enough to sign on to what was clearly going to be an
journey. My main motivation for doing anything these days is to work
people I have always wanted to collaborate with and this seemed the
opportunity for us. It's a hard film to discuss because not only is the
entire film told from a subjective point of view, meaning I'm in every
scene except for the final shock revelation, we must also strike a
between being overly obtuse and cryptic to being boringly prosaic and
We don't want to frustrate the audience by being too baffling about
really going on but we still have to retain the necessary air of
Marc is not s shy of the
aspects of Trauma and his main inspirations come from Krzysztof
Kieslowski's Three Colors: Red, White and Blue, Nic Roeg's Don't
Look Now and Roman Polanski's Repulsion and The Tenant.
gives you a rough idea of the twisted psychological zone we're in.
horror is organic and even scarier than usual because it's based around
the door to the subconscious mind that should be shut but has suddenly
become slightly ajar with terrifying ramifications."
by Alan Jones for Film Review here)
Mr Darcy lets us see his dark
Firth leads me through the basement room. ‘The blood on there looks
doesn’t it?’ he says, pointing to the doors of what appears to be a
freezer in a morgue. ‘We’re in a morgue?’ I ask. ‘It’s a morgue…but
not really’. In fact it’s a carefully cobwebbed, bloodsplattered set
his new film—a very different affair from his romantic lead role as
Darcy in Bridget Jones’s Diary.
He stars with Mena Suvari
Beauty and American Pie 2) in Trauma, a psychological chiller, which
Evans is directing for the aptly named Ministry of Fear film company.
this day, however, they’re shooting in the bowels of the old Midland
by St Pancras station, London. Some of the cast and crew believe it’s
The wife of Colin’s
has been killed in a car crash: ‘My apartment is an old ward in an old
hospital and this is supposed to be the morgue.’ Although I know it’s
a movie, the place gives me the creeps. Colin tells me I should have
around the previous day when he had to handle a live tarantula—‘not
you do every day at the office’.
As Colin puts it, his
deeply traumatised and he has a problem recalling what his reality was
before the car accident, so we see the world through his very confused
eyes. ‘He lives alone in this flat and his world is very unsettling.’
thinks a little bit of fear is good for us. ‘If you spend your life
to keep everything light, you might end of a little bit twisted. I’d be
suspicious of someone who is only ever laughing.’ Mena plays a
who tries to help him. After all this darkness, Colin gets a bit of
relief with Renee Zellweger on the Bridget Jones sequel. Later in the
his films Girl With a Pearl Earring and Love Actually go on release. (Baz
Bamigboye, Daily Mail, 6/27/03)
joined the cast of the U.K. production "Trauma" for director Marc
Flanagan will play the owner of a painting business that Colin Firth's
character comes to work for. (THR, 6/19/03)
Firth filming in Lower Marsh
Colin Firth has been
filming in Lower
Marsh with market traders hired as extras. The star has been
Trauma, a Warner film due for release late next year, which tells the
of a man who struggles to overcome the death of his partner.
The Waterloo market was
for the three days of filming with extra stalls on both sides of the
and shops restocked for filming. The film company has paid £4000
to the traders to fund promoting the market which has recently suffered
a loss in customer numbers following further office closures. Lower
has also been promised a mention in the credits. (london-se1.co.uk,
location gallery here]
Filming of Trauma ends (on Isle of Man)
Its the last day of
the film "Trauma" on the Island which means heart-throb Colin Firth
be packing his bags and leaving. His role is a testing one, that of a
whose wife has been killed in a car accident, trying to come to terms
the emotional backlash. Director, Marc Evans, says Colin has the
as well as the ability to carry it off. (Manx
The Scot Who Makes Stars' Skin Crawl
Meet the man who has a
hurl creepy crawlies at Colin Firth and Mena Suvari. Andrew Stephenson
is an animal wrangler, who hunts down exotic and often grisly creatures
for film crews. His latest project is in the Isle of Man on the set of
Trauma, where he has the unique job of spraying the former Mr D'Arcy
the American Beauty actress with ants.
Firth had to
have about 50 ants on his arms, chest and legs for around two hours
they filmed. He was amazingly stoical about it, especially as the ants
kept running off him, so we had to keep rounding them up and putting
Andrew used special
sprays to make
sure they didn't run up her nose or into her ears, and she remained
calm. "I explained to all the actors beforehand that the ants would not
harm them and that I could round them up at any time," said Andrew....
But for now, Andrew has
to head back
to the Isle of Man to solve Colin Firth's problem of ants in his pants.
Record 5/20/03 by Cath Bennett)
(2 May 2003)
Little Bird is delighted
that psychological chiller “TRAUMA” has started shooting this
Directed by Marc Evans, from an original script by talented newcomer
Smith, “TRAUMA” stars Colin Firth and Mena Suvari.
“TRAUMA” also stars Tommy
(“Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle”, “Gladiator”, “Braveheart”) and
Harris (“28 Days Later”).
“TRAUMA” is a Little Bird
from its new “Ministry of Fear” label for First Choice Films. The
producers are Nicky Kentish Barnes (“About A Boy”) and Jonathan
(“Bridget Jones’s Diary”). The director of photography is
nominee John Mathieson (“Gladiator”), the production designer is
Sallis (“My Little Eye”), the costume designer is Ffion Elinor (“Lucky
Break”), the make-up and hair designer is Pamela Haddock (“The Life And
Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby”). The executive producers are
Mitchell and Lizzie Francke.
“TRAUMA”, co-financed by
Warner Bros Pictures, and Isle of Man Film Commission, will shoot for
weeks in the Isle of Man and on location in London. Warner Bros
will distribute in the UK and Myriad Pictures will handle international
Top Hollywood star comes to Island
One of Hollywood's
actresses is teaming up with one of Britain's favourite actors for a
to be shot in the Island at the end of the month. Mena Suvari, star of
the Oscar-winning American Beauty, will be here filming the
drama, Trauma, alongside Colin Firth, [who] is hot off Bridget
Jones' Diary and it will be his second visit to the Island after he
appeared in Relative Values opposite Julie Andrews....
six days later [April 28]...making it an important month for the Isle
Man Film Commission....the 48th project shot in the Island since the Brylcreem
Boys started the ball rolling in 1995. It's being made by Little
one of the production companies behind both Bridget Jones and Churchill
[and] will shoot at the new film studio in Lezayre... (Isle
of Man Examiner 4/16/03)
Scot Strikes Gold with Movie Deal
A Scots writer's first
is to be made into a movie blockbuster starring Pride and Prejudice
hunk Colin Firth.
Richard Smith hit gold
a psychological chiller about a man who awakes from a coma to find his
wife dead and his life in ruins. The 25-year-old's writing career
at university when he co-wrote and starred in a comedy show at the
Fringe Festival in 1999. He has also written for TV and won a Scottish
Bafta for his short film Leonard.
Richard, of Dumbarton,
a bit like a dream."
Filming starts at the end
month. American Pie star Mena Suvari will star alongside Firth.
Fear grips Firth, Suvari for 'Trauma'
Colin Firth and Mena
signed to star in "Trauma," a psychological chiller directed by Marc
which will be the first pic made under the Ministry of Fear banner at
Bird Films. The pic starts shooting at the end of April in London and
Isle of Man.
Myriad Pictures is
sales, with Warner Bros. taking U.K. theatrical and video rights. Pic
being co-financed by BBC Films, the Isle of Man Film Commission and
Choice, the new tax fund from Grosvenor Park.
The original screenplay
Scottish writer Richard Smith is about a man who wakes from a coma
a car crash to find that his wife apparently died in the same accident.
As he tries to rebuild his life, he is haunted by images of his dead
and his grip on reality starts to loosen.
Firth plays the bereaved
Suvari as his new-age neighbor who encourages him to contact his wife
a medium, with shocking consequences.
Director Evans previously
had a modest
hit with another horror movie, "My Little Eye."
"Trauma" is being
produced by Nicky
Kentish-Barnes, whose credits include "About a Boy" and "An Ideal
and Little Bird's Jonathan Cavendish.
Bird set up its Ministry of Fear label 18 months ago, under former
Film Festival director Lizzie Franke, to develop horror movies with a
twist. The label has development funding from the Film Council. (Variety,
4/9/03, by Adam Dawtrey)