In “Trance,” Danny Boyle’s new films, thieves conspire to swipe an El Greco from the middle of the London auction where it is expected to fetch many millions.
When an auctioneer (James McAvoy) loses track of the painting, the thieves (Vincent Cassell among them) commission a hypnotherapist to help him remember where he stashed it. So Boyle had to learn about trances for his movie “Trance.”
But he also had to dig into the underworld of stolen or missing masterpieces. As the FBI goes to new efforts to recover art stolen from Boston’s Gardner Museum over 20 years ago, the legends of the works grow.
“It is fascinating to think of these famous, missing paintings.
“The Rembrandt (The Storm On The Sea Of Galilee) is the Holy Grail of missing paintings. A lot of people think it has been destroyed, because surely there would be some sign of it. There’s this sort of cinematic myth, that evil tycoons pay to have these things stolen who want it for their bunkers – you know, like Doctor No.”
“The truth is, they’re collateral. They’re used in lieu of cash and gold in the Underworld
A couple of them have been found, recently, in Serbia. Weird. They obviously move around.
“It’s part of the economics of the art world. Often, a ransom will be paid to get them back. A painting will be stolen $2 million is paid to get it back. But nobody loses, because the fact that it’s been stolen adds cachet and another 20% in value. Insurance premiums go up, so the insurer doesn’t lose.
“There are art detectives out there tracking these paintings and negotiating with the thieves. But it’s a dirty little business.”