The first public screening of Danny Boyle's "127 Hours" had three faintings and one seizure.
So overwhelmed were these members by what was happening on screen at Sunday night's premiere they simply could not take it. No one at the theater will comment on the seizure — which may not have been related to the film at all — but make no mistake, the scenes of mountain climber Aaron Ralston (James Franco) taking off his own arm to free himself after a fall are among the most realistic of graphic gore ever put on film, and not for the faint of heart.At the screening Monday, once again there were several mad dashes to the door when these scenes came on, and more than a few moviegoers were looking anywhere but at the screen. You could clearly see people in shock, struggling to stay in their seats, working to get past the intensity of what was going on in front of them.
The sequence is never gratuitous, just very realistic, gruesomely so, and because we have grown to care so much about the character, all the more unsettling and raw. I cannot remember a reaction to a film like this in a very long time, perhaps not since "The Exorcist" sent audiences scurrying for the doors (though much of that was later said to be a publicity stunt).
Had I not seen it with my own eyes here at TIFF I would have thought it all a clever ploy for publicity by Fox Searchlight.
Not so, though. These were clearly audience members who simply could not take it. As I exited the theater, one of the volunteers said, "This audience was made of sterner stuff than those from yesterday."
The film needs the sequence, truly, because it gives a tremendous sense of what Ralston accomplished under the most terrible of circumstances. Without it, the overall impact would not be as great. Yet with the scene, it may be too overwhelming for some audience — and Academy — members. So how do you win this one?
At any rate, Fox Searchlight must be smiling right now, because its film at this very moment is the talk of the festival.
Deja vu for "Slumdog Millionaire" Danny Boyle.