Why Filth is Awesome

filth2“The film lives up to it’s name in many ways, but it’s in McAvoy’s performance that genuine beauty is found”

As a reader of Irvine Welsh I’d been eagerly awaiting the release of Filth to the big screen for over a year. Having said that, I hadn’t actually read the book Filth but had a basic understanding  of its premise, meaning that I went into the cinema with a fairly open mind. The film centres around the protagonist DI Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy). As a viewer you are taken into the mind of Bruce via a stream of conscious narration, seeing how he applies this to the world around him. Bruce is an appalling but fascinating character and is deeply cynical and a misanthropist. We see Bruce as part of a murder investigation team in the police force, and in the opening scene he is in a room surrounded by his colleagues whilst they’re being debriefed on a murder investigation – this is where we see his rebellion surface quickly, as his primary concern is not the murder case or the victim. Instead the camera focuses on each of his colleagues one by one whilst we hear the narration of Bruce in how his colleague is an adversary to him for the promotion to DI Inspector, something he craves for.

Bruce is someone who thrives off knowing everyone’s Achilles heel. A theme throughout the film is Bruce playing ‘the games’; this basically entails him engineering situations into which his colleagues fall victim unwittingly to one of his plans, before being subsequently humiliated, to Bruce’s perverse pleasure. His complete disregard for morals and brotherhood is particularly pungent when we see him early on in the film in an asphyxiation sex scene with a colleagues wife. We then later see a scene in which the same colleague actually confides to Bruce in the pub saying how he believes his wife might be cheating on him, to which Bruce quips to him with menacing manipulation “Donna? She’s as loyal as they come mate, that’s the last thing you want to worry about.” Amoral antics such as this are a recurring theme throughout and the non-existent moral compass, and loose cannon yet cynical nature, of Bruce’s character leads to surreal and hilariously crude events throughout the film. The film, although dark, has light hearted moments of hilarity at Bruce’s antics, especially early on in the film. His trip to Hamburg with a bespectacled and dorkish colleague and the fallout from his antics at the office Christmas party draw the biggest collective laughs from the film. These scenes show Bruce to be the loveable rouge type and this is an image that his colleagues share of him; as viewers however we are exposed to the darker elements of his character.

filth‘Awaiting the reviews with baited breath…”

What makes Filth awesome is how we are drawn into the synapses of Bruce and his thought processes. Underpinning his boorish, alpha male demeanour is a broken man with serious psychological issues. These issues bubble under the surface insidiously throughout the film and we as viewers get to see a startling contrast between Bruce’s antics in the real world and his private psychological state. We see him at his most fragile in dream sequences and moments of personal isolation, moments in which we see a different, tormented side to Bruce. One recurring dream sequence that stood out for me involved an eccentric looking psychiatrist (who’s tone of voice and manner struck a likeness to the strange teacher in ‘A Clockwork Orange‘) giving damning verdicts to Bruce about his character, whilst he is laid on the archetypal psychiatrists couch. In addition to this Bruce also suffers from hallucinations that are dormant in his memory from a traumatic past; some rather startling and chilling hallucinations occur, keeping the film invigorated with creative imagery.  We gradually see Bruce’s sanity unravel as these troubling thought processes become more prevalent and subsequently his bravado mask slips off. As well as having themes relating to mental health, Filth is very much allegorical to the male ego and the duality of human character.

James McAvoy deserves plaudits for his performance in driving a film with such an intense one character focus. In order for the film to work you need a powerhouse performance, one which McAvoy certainly delivers.  We see him display well executed superficial charm in his interactions throughout the film and then see him crumble at points with crippling emotive outbursts.  His well polished and diverse performance really bring to life the complex character of Bruce Robertson. As appallingly self-centred and arrogant as he is at the start, his observational,  cynical wit is what makes him an intriguing character. His issues that bubble to the surface later and the flawed nature of his character actually make him a more likeable character towards the end; a true anti hero.

This has been Matty for the Awesome Update.

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