After rising to prominence as everyone's favourite fictional palaeontologist in Friends, one may expect David Schwimmer to be happy to rest on his comedy laurels. Since the show's end in 2004, he has starred in, written and directed numerous projects, never straying too far from the broad humour that has kept his bread buttered for the past 16 years. That his latest project is an altogether more serious tale of paedophiles, internet grooming and sexual assault may therefore come as a surprise to many, but this shift in focus is apparently the culmination of seven years of heartfelt production and one that the director does not take lightly.
Initially inspired by his work with an LA based charity and two ex-girlfriends who were victims of child sex abuse, he sees Trust as not merely being a form of cinematic entertainment (something he may dispute entirely) but more as a necessary story to tell. He cites his ideal audience being comprised of parents watching the film with their children, and in doing so heightening awareness of the dangers of online grooming among young people.
It's not like the subject hasn't been explored before. 2005's Hard Candy was a somewhat arch take on internet paedophilia with the victim-to-be turning the tables upon her potential assailant. But what differentiates these two approaches to the subject is that whilst Hard Candy could be perceived as somewhat exploitational, Trust seeks to illustrate internet grooming in a much more realist sense and most tellingly depicts its terrible consequences.
The context therefore is everything for Schwimmer who insists that the 15 rated Trust is suitable for those of age 13 and over. Brazenly labelling the ratings system "a little ludicrous and antiquated", he believes it a stumbling block to be surmounted as he seeks not only for his film to be seen in the cinema, but in schools as well.
It follows a similar classification wrangle earlier this year with The King's Speech gaining a 12A rating despite containing 12 uses of 'very strong language'. The film's certification in light of such language was due to it being used as a speech therapy tool, rather than as a casual invocation of sex and/or anger. Many also campaigned for its initial certification to be upheld due to the educational value they believed such an entertaining yet historically rooted film could hold for children, even if by conventional standards it would usually be deemed unsuitable.
What made The King's Speech so great, however, was not its message but that it was primarily a very well crafted film. I think Schwimmer sees Trust, on the other hand, as a worthy dramatic reconstruction of child sex abuse and I doubt (rightly or wrongly) that he'll take much artistic license in its portrayal. Whilst a straight laced delivery may well aid its transition into schools, people don't pay their hard-earned to be lectured or preached to. Educational films can indeed be worthy of praise or perfect for a classroom showing, but to make a great film carrying an important message is a tough task.
Requiem for a Dream is one of my favourite films of all time because Darren Aronofsky not only hammered his anti-drug message home with a horrifyingly uncompromising representation of drug addiction, but he did so with what was, first and foremost, an intensely cinematic experience. Conversely Michael Haneke's Funny Games had two homicidal house invaders constantly hectoring me about what a sadist I was for watching a film in the hope of seeing the "visceral spectacle of violence". I left with my views of the masochistic nature of horror films intact and my view of the film itself set firmly to unimpressed.
If Trust is to succeed as both a piece of cinema and a lesson in the dangers of the internet it will have to straddle the boundary of the entertaining and the educational with care. Whether or not it will find its way into schools, however, seems to be completely out of its hands.