I’m illiterate. That’s right. Even this article was translated from doo-doo smears I left on paper for our co-editior, Madeleine. This is most likely why I didn’t know who Paul Verhoeven was. Why I haven’t seen Robocop, or Basic Instinct (let’s also pretend that illiteracy prevents the viewing of certain situationally convenient movies), or most of his other films. I may have seen Total Recall, but that idea is based off a vague memory of Schwarzenegger’s head exploding on mars. Was that in that movie? Whatever. I digress.
Not knowing who he was, I was attracted to Tricked because of its concept – crowdsourcing. I liked the idea of a community made, democratically collaborative film, and thought I’d give it a shot. And it did not disappoint.
The Tribeca screening of Tricked consisted of two distinct parts. The first, a roughly 30 minute documentary about the making of the film, immediately followed by the film itself. While at first the documentary didn’t seem necessary, and in fact a little self congratulatory, I’m very glad they included it. Without it, I would have missed a lot of the nuances and subtle comedy in the film which, more or less, made it for me. Hopefully the doc and the film are always shown this way – but if not, it is definitely worth seeking out and viewing. Following the screening, the crowd at the film festival were treated to a discussion with Verhoeven on the topic of Tricked and his filmmaking.
In a nutshell, Paul was tired of Hollywood (I mean, at this point, who isn’t?) and after his successful return back to his home country with Black Book, he was ready to try it again with a new, exciting, and unknown creative endeavor. Here, he conceptualized the idea for the Tricked – where he would shoot the first 4 minutes of a narrative, and then ask the public to complete the following chapters. What made this most intriguing, however, was how it was compartmentalized, never allowing anyone to see the full picture. Part 2 would not be written until part 1 had completed filming, and so on, preventing not only the director, but the actors as well, to be in the dark about their own characters and outcomes. And surprisingly, Verhoeven was able to masterfully weave them all together into a coherent, albeit quirky, film.
Had I not seen the doc, my appreciation of the film would have ended here: quirky. However, after spending 30 minutes with the cast and crew, delving into the process behind the making of Tricked, I was able to notice so much more. For example, inconsistent character traits suddenly became these magnificent glimpses into how outside minds, not the mind of a select handful of screenwriters, wanted the movie to go. Silly things, that one would assume to see in an episode of CSI: Miami popped up here and there – like when a character typed someones name into a Dutch Google maps and was able to find their address, and even see into their house. Moments like these were so perfect, simply because I knew that average people (in fact, over 700 people submitted scripts for the first chapter alone,) were taking tropes and cliches they had seen in the world around them, and were appropriating them into this patchwork of a film. This, and there were so many plot twists that, even if you were caught up in trying to rationalize everything that was going on, you were kept gleefully entertained.
In all, Tricked was a fantastic film that embraced and exploited its technique to its fullest extent. Could this type of filming work for everyone? Probably not, and in fact, I really wouldn’t want to see a trend of crowdsourced films popping up. Yes, the inspiration and twists came from the crowd, but the film itself came from Verhoeven, and without his hand to guide all the pieces, who knows how it would have came out. For these reasons, Tricked definitely wins Cannes.