Back in 1996 Danny Boyle’s ‘Trainspotting’ (adaption from a Irvine Welsh novel) causing almost a revolution as it was the first British film to break out of the whole vision of just having period dramas being released from Britain. Adapting the satire of Welsh’s novel the film became a huge cultural success. Years after directors have tried their best to adapt Welsh’s novels, all of which had failed, not culturally but in quality to (for a example look at 2012’s ‘Ecstasy’). Having thought that cinema wasn’t destined for another quality adaptation of Welsh’s work, here arrives Jon S. Baird’s ‘FILTH’, based on the 2008 novel of the same name.
The first point I think we need to make here is that this is a largely depressing film. What it is, is a satirical look into a Police officer Bruce Robinson’s downfall into drink, sex and drugs, while on the backdrop to a murder and a job promotion. While it will offend audiences, it is contextualised which probably has stopped it from getting in trouble with the film censorship boards. And while I don’t mind this depression (something the film doesn’t market) and offensive mentality, it’s the satire behind it which to me doesn’t work. The thing is this is a straight adaptation from the 2008 novel by Welsh. In doing this what they have created is satire which doesn’t really ever come across memorable, and nor competent to the characters introduced to the screen. Now this satire does work in the book, but cinema it is a rather different medium. Everything feels rather just pushed on the screen and plot threads just feel very briefly mensioned (like a trip to Amsterdam) and never really explored meaning you eventually just don’t care about the main character of Bruce, or hell any of the main characters at all. This is a shame as there is something here which could be memorable, if only they had adapted and worked the satire to a more cinematic form like that of ‘Trainspotting’ then it might stand a chance of being at its mighty level. Another successful example of this is ‘American Psycho’. The fundamental issue is that, while it may appeal good in print, it doesn’t mean it can be translated to screen as well. It is as almost it’s quality suffers from its own depths.
Generally there is some good stuff though to keep you going. James McAvoy (whose on screen almost all the time) is great as Bruce Robinson, Imogen Poots, Jamie Bell and Eddie Marsan (who’s just brilliant in everything he is in) do more on screen than expected and Jim Broadbent as the almost ‘Ghost of Christmas’ adds good value. Baird’s direction is good as well; I like how he has characterised the two different personalities of Bruce’s personality when he is under the influence. Also note the 1990’s soundtrack.
In a whole ‘Filth’ is meant to be trash, and I get that it is meant to be depressing, but with the satirical undertone not translating well to screen it makes it hard as a audience member to like the main character, something which the film really wants you to do in a ‘Bad Lieutenant’ kind of way. In a word: oppressive.