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Filth – not for the faint hearted

A savage interpretation of the 1998 novel by Scottish author Irvine Welsh, written and directed by Jon S. Baird.

 

The film is centred around Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy), who indulges in shocking forms of violence, masturbation and sadomasochism, including hints of racism and homophobia.

Having spent my youth in Edinburgh, I thoroughly enjoyed the film’s paradoxical perspective of a truly middle-class city.

The storyline revolves around Robertson’s struggle to secure a promotion and win back his wife and child.  However, hints of mental illness are embedded throughout the film, with extremely disturbing hallucinations and childhood flashbacks.  To achieve his promotion, Robertson chooses to turn his colleagues against one another, including his close friend Ray Lennox (Jamie Bell).

As the film progresses, the title Filth is certainly well-chosen, as the storyline becomes more and more twisted, littered with profanity and drug abuse.

The audience witnesses Robertson’s life spiral out of control and we vividly experience flashes of the grotesque hallucinations that manifest in Robertson’s mind, including warped recollections of his visits to his psychiatrist (Jim Broadbent).

However, towards the end, the plot becomes complex and difficult to follow. As the hallucinations become more frequent, it becomes harder to distinguish from reality.

Overall, the strange enjoyment in Filth is almost solely due to McAvoy’s outstanding performance.  McAvoy manages to interpret the sadistic and psychopathic demeanour of Robertson’s character, yet is somehow able to maintain his likeability.

His character’s crumbling mental state and grasp on reality are both highlighted by moments of clarity, where the audience gets a glimpse of the person he really is, beneath all the dark humour.

Filth is certainly a film that audiences should experience. At the most uncomfortable moment, when you feel like you should be looking away, it is impossible not to glare at the screen. But be warned – it takes a few seconds to adjust back to reality after viewing.

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