If films had definitions, Trance (2020) would be defined as an attempt to suspending the belief(s) of the audience. The film is a visual manifestation of what its title means, per se. Its motives are potent, and the route taken to reach them is intended to create a unique journey. A journey that manages to establish a separate identity for the film as far as Malayalam cinema is concerned. And it manages to do the same but not quite successfully. The cost of experience is paid in terms of effect. The temporal shadow of spiritual business is exposed with bravery, but in a manner that compromises with brevity. In the end, Trance gets reduced to a bitter mix of eccentricism, erraticism, and eroticism.
Trance is about the transition of an atheist to a spiritual leader who is compelled to borrow a theistic attitude for a capitalist gain. The introductory sequence is completely devoted to character development. It also serves as a brilliant display of skills with extremely fluid camerawork that attaches us with our protagonist on a personal level. The editing is intelligent as far as the first half is concerned as it helps in the maintenance of an even pace through the narrative that is crucial for the film’s succession. What’s important is that the film doesn’t indulge in psychedelia to overtly exploit its devotion to unconventionality. Hence, Trance continues to exist as an easily consumable experience that neither intends to nor tries to induce artificial anxiety. However, the subject matter is so prevalent and tragic in our rational world that its exposition in the film ends up becoming the greatest source of anxiety. Simultaneously, makers deserve praise for diluting the tension, which could have peaked in numerous episodes, with satirical humor. You laugh more than you sweat.
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Fahadh Faasil is the biggest element of Trance. He is the noise you hear, the light you see, and the air you feel through the course of the film. The film submits itself to the actor’s presence and often turns to manipulate the audience into buying itself on Fahadh’s name. Anwar Rasheed incorporates style in his story. But alas, the pace ruptures and thematic eccentricism gets precipitated in an insoluble mixture of plots as the film descends to its second half. At one point, it feels as if Vincent Vadakkan forgot what he was doing with the character and hence, ended up starting afresh midway. As realization sinks in, the central plot is rendered ordinary. The film suddenly becomes an incoherent mixture of clichéd events and you lose your interest in what happens to the characters that enter, inhabit, and exit the screenplay.
For some reason, Nazriya Nazim’s presence creates an erotic tension in the film that uses her arc as a petty plot device. A huge loophole awaits as the film reaches its conclusion. A conclusion that appears to warrant an arrival only because the film appears to cross the permissible limits of a runtime. You will easily predict her presence as the presence of an evolving companion for our hero. And you will keep asking its requirement.
Soubin Shahir appears the first time for a strong reason targeted at creating a challenge, disappears out of compulsion to make room for Fahadh, appears again to push Fahadh’s existence a little bit more, leaves the audience puzzled to decipher the significance of what happened, disappears to make room for Fahadh again, appears out of isolation to complete the challenge he created in his first appearance and is eliminated out of importance in a juvenile way in the end. Vinayakan’s subplot can be of considerable importance when viewed in isolation. But his and Soubin’s character get abused for the establishment of vindictive justice. They neither get a closure nor a justified treatment. Chemban is a prop. Sreenath Bhasi tries to impress in his minor role, which again is a device for Fahadh’s arc. Trance succumbs to weak writing again and again. Nevertheless, it is quite audacious in its efforts to hide its sore parts with technical makeup. You enjoy the score laden entries and exits. You laugh at incomprehensible idiocy of the crowd present in the film and you ponder over some of the rich awakenings it tries to provide to those who are religiously blind. You get tired, eventually, watching the film doing everything to inject thrill.
Trance (2020) is a half-success. It establishes religion as the ultimate drug with the rags-to-riches story of a man. But the film ends up like a placebo pill, in its entirety. Worth watching and forgetting.