Bleak

Caught the film adaptation of Young Adam this weekend. A pretty faithful adaptation of Alexander Trocchi’s bleak novel of a rudderless drifter set on the canal barges of 50s Scotland. Trocchi has often been compared to the closest Scottish literature has come to Bill Burroughs for pure fucked-upedness mixed with remarkably unusual writing for the period (this is a man who later pimped his wife to feed his heroin habit). The colourless, post-war austerity Scotland setting is perfect to match the film, the joyless, bleak, industrial vista matching the narrative perfectly. There were some wonderful pieces of cinematography, like a high-angle shot of Ewan MacGregor’s Joe walking the length of the moving longboat barge, giving the effect that he is walking but standing still (like walking backwards down an up escalator).

In one flashback scene we see him pull his girlfriend (a gorgeous Emily Mortimer) down to the floor of the rowboat they are in. The camera view switches to a medium longshot, looking side-on at the rowboat, which now appears to be floating empty against a cold, Scottish winter landscape, a perfect visual signifier for the directionless, rudderless, drifting, essentially empty life of the central protagonist. Peter Mullan was excellent as ever as Les, while the fantastic Tilda Swinton was almost unrecognisable as the middle-aged housewife, Ella (until you have a close-up of her astonishing, almost alien-like eyes).