Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Danny Boyle|
|Produced by||Andrew Macdonald|
|Written by||John Hodge|
|Music by||Simon Boswell|
|Edited by||Masahiro Hirakubo|
|Distributed by||Gramercy Pictures
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
|Running time||92 minutes|
Shallow Grave is a 1994 multiple–award-winning dark comedy crime film that marked the cinematic directorial debut of Danny Boyle with an original screenplay by John Hodge. The film also provided starring roles for the then relatively little-known actors Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston and Kerry Fox.
The production was funded by Channel 4 television and the film was distributed by PolyGram Filmed Entertainment who, as with their other releases, generated a large amount of publicity for the film on a limited budget.
Shallow Grave was the most commercially successful British film of 1995, considered a "90s classic" by Criterion in 2012. It earned Boyle the Best Newcomer Award from the 1996 London Film Critics Circle.
David Stephens (Christopher Eccleston), a chartered accountant, Juliet Miller (Kerry Fox), a physician, and Alex Law (Ewan McGregor), a journalist, share a flat in Edinburgh. Needing a new flatmate, they interview several applicants in a calculatedly cruel manner to amuse themselves at the applicants' distress, finally settling on one mysterious Hugo (Keith Allen). Very shortly after Hugo moves in, however, the trio find him dead in his room, with a large suitcase full of money. They agree to keep Hugo's death a secret and keep the money for themselves. They bury the body in a secret grave in the woods, after first cutting off the hands and feet, smashing in the face, and removing the teeth to prevent identification of the body. To David falls the gruesome and traumatising task of dismembering the corpse, and to Juliet that of disposing of the hands and feet in her hospital incinerator. Only the louche Alex seems to keep his equanimity.
Unknown to the conspirators, Hugo, who evidently had criminal connections, is being sought by two ex-accomplices or thugs, who brutally kill informers along the way after finding out all they know about Hugo and the money. The flat below Alex, David, and Juliet's is broken into, causing them much apprehension and anxiety. The break-in also draws the attention of the police, who are surprised when the three deny that they ever had a fourth flatmate. While Juliet and Alex spend part of the money to 'feel better', David's fears explode into full-blown paranoia. He hides the suitcase of money in the attic, and begins living there, drilling holes in the attic floor to watch the living space below. The relationship between the three becomes increasingly strained and distrustful, with undertones of sexual tension and rivalry.
The men trailing Hugo break into the trio's flat and violently assault Alex and Juliet, until they reveal where the money is. As they each enter the dark attic, David, who has been lying there in wait, kills them with a hammer. The trio again visit the same woods to dispose of the two bodies. Alex and Juliet become more worried than ever about David's mental state and David becomes worried that the two are conspiring against him. Juliet secretly buys a plane ticket to South America in anticipation of flight overseas, but also seduces David to get at the money. Matters come to a head after the bodies are discovered by chance - the grave having been too shallow - and Alex is sent by his newspaper to cover the story. He returns to find Juliet and David have reached an understanding about their shared plans that excludes him. That night, Alex - now fearing for his life - tries to secretly phone the police inspector in charge of the case, but he is interrupted by David and Juliet leaving. The doorstep altercation quickly escalates into a murderous triangular fight. David reveals he knows Juliet's secret plan to betray them, and lunges to attack her. Alex intervenes to defend her, and tries to persuade her to let David leave and take the suitcase. In the ensuing scuffle, David ends up stabbing Alex deep in the top of his chest with a kitchen knife, but before he can stab him a second time, he is himself killed by Juliet by a single knife blow through the throat from behind.
With David dead, Juliet tells Alex he can't come with her, then forces David's knife violently even further into Alex's torso and through the other side, before fleeing to the airport with the suitcase of money. However, arriving at the airport, she discovers that she has been tricked - the suitcase is filled not with money but with hundreds of headline clippings about the triple grave taken from Alex's newspaper. Devastated, with no possessions except her plane ticket, and knowing that she will soon be wanted for murder, Juliet flees the country. The police arrive at the flat to find Alex bleeding heavily and pinned to the floor. The camera pans to under the floor to reveal Alex's secret - removed from the suitcase and now concealed under the floorboards, are the missing bundles of cash.
- Kerry Fox as Juliet Miller
- Christopher Eccleston as David Stevens
- Ewan McGregor as Alex Law
- Ken Stott as Detective Inspector McCall
- Keith Allen as Hugo
- Colin McCredie as Cameron
- Victoria Nairn as Visitor
- Gary Lewis as Visitor
- Jean Marie Coffey as Goth
- Peter Mullan as Andy
- Leonard O'Malley as Tim
The film was Ewan McGregor's first major film role, alongside Christopher Eccleston and Kerry Fox. The supporting cast is led by Keith Allen, Peter Mullan, and Ken Stott. It includes John Hodge, the film's writer, as one of the police detectives.
Shooting for Shallow Grave lasted for thirty days. The tight budgetary restraints during filming meant many of the props had to be auctioned off for them to afford sufficient film stock.
Danny Boyle said in his commentary on the 2009 Special Edition DVD and 2012 Blu-ray that Alex is not meant to be dead. Boyle stresses that a line of Alex saying hello to the detective was actually added in post-production to clarify this.
The crew shot predominantly in Glasgow rather than Edinburgh, which is where the story is set, since the Glasgow film fund gave them a £150,000 grant.
Locations in the film include:
- Flat 6 North East Circus Place, New Town, Edinburgh
- Hospital scenes were filmed at Royal Alexandra Hospital, Paisley, Renfrewshire
- Dance scene Townhouse Hotel - 54 West George Street, Glasgow, Strathclyde
Reception and impact
The film was the most commercially successful British film of 1995, although initially not widely seen elsewhere (grossing a total of just $2,834,250 in the United States). It led to Boyle's internationally successful production, Trainspotting, two years later. By 2012 it had been released by Criterion and was considered a "90s classic". Shallow Grave earned Boyle the Best Newcomer Award from the 1996 London Film Critics Circle and, together with Trainspotting, led to critical commentary that Boyle had revitalised British cinema in the early 1990s.
- 1995 Angers European First Film Festival
- Audience Award – Feature Film
- Best Screenplay – Feature Film
- Liberation Advertisement Award
- 1995 BAFTA – Alexander Korda Award for Best British film (shared with Andrew Macdonald)
- 1995 Cognac Festival du Film Policier
- Audience Award
- Grand Prix
- 1994 Dinard British Film Festival
- Golden Hitchcock
- 1996 Empire Award
- Best Director
- 1995 Evening Standard British Film Award
- Most Promising Newcomer for Danny Boyle
- 1995 Fantasporto (Portugal)
- International Fantasy Film Award – Best Film
- 1994 San Sebastian International Film Festival
- Silver Seashell – Best Director
|Soundtrack album by Simon Boswell|
|Genre||Electronic, Jazz, Rock|
|Danny Boyle film soundtrack chronology|
- Leftfield – "Shallow Grave" – 4:38
- Simon Boswell – "Shallow Grave Theme" – 3:30
- Nina Simone – "My Baby Just Cares for Me" – 3:38
- Simon Boswell – "Laugh Riot" – 3:02
- Leftfield – "Release the Dubs" – 5:45
- John Carmichael Band – "Strip the Willow" – 3:12
- Simon Boswell – "Loft Conversion" – 5:45
- Simon Boswell – "A Spade, We Need a Spade" – 2:41
- Simon Boswell – "Shallow Grave, Deep Depression" – 4:49
- Simon Boswell – "Hugo's Last Trip" – 5:39
- Andy Williams – "Happy Heart" – 3:11
- "Variety Reviews – Shallow Grave". Variety. 17 May 1994. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
- "Release". British Film Institute. London. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
- "Shallow Grave". British Film Institute. London. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
- "Shallow Grave (1994)". Box Office Mojo. 28 February 1995. Retrieved 2011-08-12.
- "Shallow Grave (1994)". Retrieved 2009-12-29.
- Williams, Karl. "Shallow Grave". Allmovie. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
- Locke, Greg (2012-07-19). "ScreenTime No. 146 :: Criterion's Finer Plugs". ZecataList.com. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
- Mayer & McDonnell 2007, pp. 377–380.
- A. Gonzalez, Cristina (April 9, 2013). "Danny Boyle Reflects on Shooting Amidst Real Dead Bodies on Shallow Grave and Talks Budgeting at Academy Event". indieWire.
- BFI Top 100 British films. BFI. 6 September 2006. Retrieved 23 February 2009.
- Grice, Elizabeth (24 February 2009). "From Fleapit to the red carpet". London: Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 11 March 2009.
- "Shallow Grave (1994)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixter. Retrieved 2013-01-08.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Shallow Grave|
- Shallow Grave at the Internet Movie Database
- Shallow Grave review at Cult Fiction
- Criterion Collection page