I don’t often get self-conscious when going to see a film. One of the joys and burdens of being a self-appointed critic is seeing as many films as you can.. although the major cost of this is that sometimes you have to head out to see a film by yourself. That’s a taboo over here in the UK – just what kind of weirdo are you going by yourself? However, the only time I’ve truly felt such a weirdo has been when going to see films that are primarily aimed at a younger demographic (for obvious reasons), or when I was sitting and watching the ample bosoms of several topless girls at the beginning of Spring Breakers. Well, this has now been added to by heading out to catch the latest Scottish opus derived from the mind of novelist Irvine Welsh… “Can I have a ticket for Filth please?”… Quite…
Yes, Filth is an evocative word. To some it makes them think of dirt and grime, whilst to others it’s all about the carnal pleasures of the flesh. The Phage won’t divulge which side we come down on! But Filth aims to capitalise on its name sake by running through sex, drugs, violence… and a bit more sex; just for good measure. All of this is wrapped up in the somewhat odd and off-the-wall stylings you’d come to expect from a film that’s closest cousin is Trainspotting, owing to the fact that both of the novels behind the films were written by Irvine Welsh.
So, like Trainspotting, FIlth is based in Scotland; replete with Scottish actors. At the head of the film we have Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) a detective that’s intent on landing that promotion. All he has to do is get ahead of his competition within his department. This leads to him systematically trying to destroy each one of them and turn them against one another so that he can secure his spot. But Bruce has many more problems than just his colleagues… he’s also got some internal demons that are determined to destroy him too.
Filth, as the name would imply, is not a merry little ride through Scotland. The film is dark, twisted and more than occasionally funny. What truly gripped me here was James McAvoy‘s performance. For me, it came closest to when I saw him onstage in London as Macbeth – he was ferocious and damn near unhinged in his acting. I like this. Some have said this is a reinvigoration for McAvoy, but I think he’s been doing rather well for himself as of late. He’s not been type-cast and hasn’t hit a rut, so I fail to see what other critics are levying this comment against if I’m honest! That being said, this is definitely one of his most compelling performances in recent years.
What I quite enjoyed about Filth was the style in which the film was put together. Like Trainspotting, this film isn’t afraid to cut away into illusions and delusions, or travel inside the twisted minds of its protagonists. This style won’t be for everyone, as it certainly breaks the flow of the film and removes some of that “slickness” we’re all used to with glossy films nowadays… but this is Scotland. This works. It works well.
To top it off, Filth has a great story, albeit with an admittedly bonkers concluding act. I’ve not read the book of the same name, so I can’t comment on how well it adheres to Welsh‘s vision. However, I have read several other of his books and it definitely adheres to the “Welsh-ness” of it all (that’s Welsh the author, not the country… I am well aware of the difference between Wales and Scotland). What remains to be seen though is how well this translates to the wider world. It’s telling that Filth‘s premiere was in Scotland (yes, it was a week earlier in Scotland than the rest of the UK), as it IS very Scottish. If you “got” Trainspotting and its glum look at Glasgow, you’ll “get” Filth too. But if not? Well, you’ll be missing out on much of the dark charm that is Filth. Like McAvoy‘s role in Trance, FIlth won’t be for everyone anyway. But you’ll probably be hindering yourself somewhat if ya dinne get tha Scottish tongue…
Filth is a deliciously dark film that’s as twisted as the name would imply. I wouldn’t go as far as calling the film “shocking” or “depraved”, because it could have done far more to earn those adjectives. What it is is another fantastic tale from the deepest recesses of Scotland. Although I’ve solely paid attention to McAvoy here, the whole primary cast is without fault and truly hold the film together to keep you entertained from beginning to end. Sure, the ending will leave you slightly puzzled… but just try not to think about it too hard.
I don’t know if Filth ranks up as the most embarassing trip to the cinema though. I tend to bumble into people, sit on their laps (by accident) and trip up a lot. But asking for “a ticket for Filth” did feel a bit weird. I’m not in Amsterdam, and I’m not staring through a peephole at some lady girating away; her dead eyes staring out into the middle distance. But then again, maybe they’ll finally adapt Irvine Welsh‘s Porno, which’d definitely give me more cause for an awkward moment with the cashier girl…
Nice review mate. Haven’t managed to check this out yet but I want to ask for a ‘ticket for Filth’ and look unblinking into the cashier’s eyes. Then maybe cry a bit.
Haha! It does make you feel like you’re out shopping for filth in a “Book Shop”… Totally worth it though in my opinion!
Absolutely loved this. I thought McAvoy’s ability to evoke sympathy for such a depraved character was very impressive.
Great review Phage. Couldn’t agree more either. I absolutely loved it and think McAvoy had delivered one of the best performances of the year.
Big McAvoy fan right here – and agreed, definitely one of his strongest. It’s nice to see him playing something that’s not very likeable. He’s normally very much the “good guy” in these types of things. A shrewd career move I reckon.
I really enjoyed this film, not as much as Trainspotting though….and I have sympathy with you going to see this alone as I also saw this alone!!
Hopefully I don’t have to ask for a ticket for Filth again…