In almost 20 years of career in cinema and ten feature-length films ( “Trance” comes out in Britain and will be on screens in france on the 8 may next year), Danny Boyle became a british director which is unavoidable and has been able to impose their own style, between “pop culture” and reflection on society and humanity. A look back on a career both coherent and full of surprises.
A filmography eclectic
Danny Boyle is a key to everything. It begins at the theater as a stage director, and including the prestigious ” Royal Shakespeare Company “, before turning to the tv, where it makes its first weapons as a producer and director. So naturally, when he throws himself into the adventure of the seventh art, it’s not going to be confined to a single genre but to explore different worlds.
We can divide the film work of Danny Boyle, into three major periods, very intimately related to the persons with whom he most frequently collaborated. The first will be that of the ” Bag of Money Trilogy “, that he produced with his two cronies met during his years of tv, screenwriter John Hodge and producer Andrew Macdonald. Danny Boyle will work in close collaboration with them, very invested in the design of the films, far beyond their simple initial roles. We can, of course add to this trio, Ewan McGregor, the lead actor in three feature films. This “Bag of Money Trilogy” is a digression around the subject of money and its effects. If it retains a certain unity of style, it is composed of three films of different genres : a dark comedy ” Small murders between friends “, a drama “Trainspotting” and a romantic comedy ” A life less ordinary “. However, it is not always easy to put the films of Danny Boyle, in a box, the developer magnet to mix genres and to revisit them. Among these three films, the most striking example is undoubtedly that of ” A life less ordinary “. If it respects the structure of the romantic comedy and some of its codes, he likes to spray and to reveal all the tricks. “A life less ordinary” is akin to a screwball comedy where the romance knocks against it with the fantastic and the thriller.
After this trilogy, promising, and a first incursion on the territory of the united states ” A life less ordinary “, it’s no surprise to see Hollywood make eyes at Danny Boyle. The director will then sign his first (and only real) blockbuster, ” The Beach “, which will create both a break and a transition in the career of the filmmaker. If we find John Hodge screenplay, and Andrew Macdonald the production, “The Beach” is moving away from the style which is very free, “Bag of Money Trilogy” to fit in a mold more hollywood (even if the leg of a director, still very visible). Danny Boyle will be strongly encouraged to replace Ewan McGregor, initially tipped to interpret Richard, by Leonardo DiCaprio. An event that will create a chill between the director and the actor to the point of no longer see them turning together in the past (the recent announcement of the project of a sequel to ” Trainspotting “, however, revived the hopes). “The Beach” also proved to be a passing of the torch between John Hodge and Alex Garland, the first adaptation of the novel of the second. With “The Beach” begins, in effect, a very successful collaboration between Danny Boyle and author Alex Garland, who sign together by following the very successful “28 days later” and ” Sunshine “. Still being produced by Macdonald but more independent than ” The Beach “, these two long-feature films have a very great freedom of tone. Two pure genre films this time. The first being to be reborn the zombie film, the second found its precise place among the great titles from the science-fiction. Two movies at the same time very referenced, respecting the codes, while being very personal. Boyle and Garland are continuing, more in-depth than in ” The Beach “, their analysis of the current society and humanity, of his relation to nature, the universe, and the mystical.
At the same time Danny Boyle launches out in the realization of projects in which it is not directly the initiator and which seem most remote from his world : “Millions “, written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, and “Slumdog Millionaire” on a script by the author of “the Full Monty,” Simon Beaufoy. The director found, however, a number of its themes, the relation to the money in the first place. It also requires clearly his trademark, and continues his exploration of the various genres, the children’s film with “Million” and the popular cinema with ” Slumdog Millionaire “, which mixed romance, adventure, chronic, social, thriller, drama and comedy. The latter, a worldwide success surprise, will reveal the director in the eyes of the general public. However, when Boyle joins forces once again with Beaufoy, it is to tell a very different story of ” Slumdog Millionaire “, that of Aron Ralston, a mountain climber trapped for five days at the bottom of a canyon, the arm trapped by a rock. With ” 127 hours “, the director is launching in the survival and the film in camera. But once again it takes these genres against the foot to make a story human.
In recent years, Danny Boyle seems to once again diversify with a return to his first love. It puts in scene “Frankenstein” by Nick Dear at the Royal National Theatre in London. A dive in the fantastic always very influenced by his style which allows him once again to dissect human behaviour (the two actors, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, reversed the roles of Dr. Frankenstein and the Creature depending on the night). The height of the global success of ” Slumdog Millionaire “, it is also offer the staging of the opening ceremony of the O. J. of the London 2012. Danny Boyle does not give up for all the cinema. It launches this time in the thriller with ” Trance “, which could also be a return to the cinema of his debut, the producer collaborating again with John Hodge, 14 years after ” The Beach “.
The art of aesthetics
If Danny Boyle has tackled many different genres, his production remains however, quite easily detectable. One can clearly speak of a style, Danny Boyle, to the point that some accuse one side tape-to-eye. The director is a fan of a scene quite dynamic, likes to use all the possibilities offered by the camera, the light and the image. A dolly of any kind, short focal lengths, split-screen, subliminal images, reducing the number of frames per second, scenery dreamlike, mounting clippesque, the use of cameras to film, photograph and very colorful… so Many techniques which are at the discretion of his filmography. However, to summarize his or her style by the simple adjective brash would stay too much on the surface. There is a reflection behind the scene. The structure of the plans, or the sets of the films of Boyle, are often evidence of symbolism (see in particular “Trainspotting” ). The developer also attaches a lot of importance to the installation guide for subliminally the spectator’s gaze. The narrative’s main “Slumdog Millionaire” including this process, but “Sunshine” and “127 hours” is also using it very efficiently.
The interest of such a staging, which is not in the half-measure, can be various. It can sometimes be to impose a climate particular emotional, a very quirky in “Small murders between friends” and ” A life less ordinary “, a universe underground and hallucinations due to the drugs in ” Trainspotting “, the dreams of childhood in ” Million “. In other cases, it introduces the viewer to a world unknown or to more easily pass the difficult stuff, the reality of the slums in ” Slumdog Millionaire “, the situation of Aron Ralston in ” 127 hours “, the overdose and withdrawal in ” Trainspotting “. Moreover, behind this first aspect very stylized staging of Boyle, appears very often a second plan is much more realistic, which is reflected, sometimes very clearly in the development stage, notably in “Slumdog Millionaire” (use of cameras SI2K and cameras, filming in the middle of the street in the crowd, stolen blueprints…), or even in the next documentary of “28 days later” was shot in DV.
“28 days later” and “Sunshine” are, however, of the films in the filmography of Boyle. If their stagings are always based on something very aesthetic, they are more in the restraint, the more aligned, the better digested and more mature. “28 days later” has a real climate post-apocalyptic very realistic that is offset by the time of the dream sequences. “Sunshine” is first and foremost a sensory experience, as much for its beautiful treatment of the light by the sound, which merges with the sublime score signed by John Murphy and Underworld, the main partners of the soundtracks of Boyle.
The music has a leading role in his films, be it the original scores like in “28 days later” or “Sunshine” or songs additional like in ” Trainspotting “, “The Beach” or ” 127 hours “. Boyle has the gift to find music that fit perfectly with its staging (see, for example, the sequence of the turning of the train in “Million” on a background of a Muse). In “Slumdog Millionaire” composer, indian A. R. Rahman was able to find the right tone between a tribute to the style of Bollywood and the sounds of electro-pop, dear to the director.
The last thing that shines through in the staging of Danny Boyle is his love for the cinema. Each of his films multiplies the references to the largest. Among the most significant : “a clockwork Orange” in ” Trainspotting “, “Apocalypse Now” in “The Beach” and ” 28 days later “, “Alien” and “2001 Odyssey of the space” in “Sunshine” … “28 days later” is a tribute to the films of Romero, “Slumdog Millionaire” at the cinema of Bollywood. Boyle likes to also resume the codes of certain genres to give an atmosphere to certain scenes, as in ” A life less ordinary “, with its sequence musical comedy of the 50’s, or his false duel western.
Danny Boyle is not only obsessed by the aesthetics of its staging, but also by the subjects that he continues to develop since its inception. The first is obviously the money, the nerve center of the “Bag of Money Trilogy, but that it has again dealt with in “Slumdog Millionaire” and ” Million “. This last and “Small murders between friends” are to be put in parallel. In both cases people lambda end up with a big bag of tickets that will change their life and confront them with the selfishness and the thirst for power of men. The next very caustic to “Small murders between friends” who saw friends kill each other over the loot, “Million” substituted by against the victory of the assistance. A moral more appropriate in a film for a child, of course. However, the fiber humanist Boyle seems more and more marked with time. Thus, if we put this time in parallel with “A life less ordinary” and ” Slumdog Millionaire “, where the money appears to be more secondary in the eyes of heroes, we note that the first closes on love slamming their big money quite selfishly by making a snook at those who ran after, while the end of “Slumdog Millionaire” occult, totally the money to focus on the love.
Behind the side enough hype of its staging, Danny Boyle does not hesitate, in fact, not to look pretty critically at the society that surrounds it. Finding years post-Thatcher in ” Small murders between friends “, disparities in classes of indian “Slumdong Millionaire” … Many of the heroes of Boyle’s attempt to escape with their company. Renton and his cronies are cament to escape the reality of Scotland’s crisis in ” Trainspotting “, Richard, and Aron Ralston, each in their own way, deviate from the cities and of a consumer society in “The Beach” and ” 127 hours “. So far, their attempts end each time by failures. The clearest example is that of “The Beach” where the new company is founded cannot pass from the one it tries to escape, and reiterates its mistakes, making a statement rather fatalistic of the human psyche. However, there are also some changes in the about Boyle. Where to Renton, weaned from the drug, returned to the society with a lot of selfishness (he leaves a part of his “buddies” in the harbor) and not without irony, Richard and Aron see some hope in humanity and in the relationships between men.
“Sunshine” and “28 days later” picks up these ideas to a higher level. The two films are located respectively in a climate pre-and post-apocalyptic and therefore see the future of the world in question. In ” 28 days later “, the contagiousness of the virus creates a distrust between the men, pulling away from each other to the point of making them lose their humanity (see the last part in the military). However, it is well for the new-found confidence, in mutual support and the formation of a new home as the heroes see reborn the hope for a new beginning. “Sunshine” goes up to confront the man as an individual Man as humanity, the astronauts are meant to be a sacrifice to save their planet. In parallel they are confronted with the origins of life and Man’s relationship to the world around him. Theme already addressed in “The Beach” where the company Sal was looking for an Eden on earth, who will eventually escape him, nature taking its rights on these men that were challenging. The Sun of the ” Sunshine “, by the attraction and the danger it poses to astronauts, has a divine side, both indispensable to their survival, but also able to take away their lives. The fact that it will die and people will seek to turn it back on is a strong symbol. There is the Man who takes himself for God, an ultimate control of nature, but also a humanity that takes its destiny in hand, while it is on the point of breaking. Because it contains all the themes dear to Danny Boyle and pushes them to their climax, “Sunshine” is probably the highlight of the filmography of the director, thus demonstrating that it is not a mere maker of images tap-to-eye for the good will of the entertainment.