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Empire of Light Teaser: Sam Mendes Is Really Into Film Theory Lately

“Film,” says the film projectionist, Toby Jones, in the Empire’s shabby projection booth lined with portraits of movie stars on the walls. “It’s just static frames with darkness in between.” But because eyes cannot distinguish the shutter between the photographs that make up a film, the quick succession of still images at 24 frames per second creates an illusion of motion. Or, as Toby Jones puts it: “An illusion of life. So you don’t see the darkness.” That philosophical projectionist, who sounds like an undergrad film professor hooked on the writings of André Bazin, narrates the teaser to Sam Mendes’s upcoming movie Empire of Light. Starring Academy Award winner Olivia Colman and BAFTA winner Michael Ward, the film is set in a seaside English town in the 1980s, where a romance blossoms between an employee at the local Empire cinema and a woman who just returned to town. The relationship may be fraught, though. The magic of cinema may have brought the interracial couple together, but the reality of racism is just outside the door of the theater. The film reunites Mendes with cinematographer Roger Deakins, whose work on 1917 earned him the Oscar for Best Cinematography for its one-take magic. Toby Jones, Colin Firth, Tom Brooke, Tanya Moodie, Hannah Onslow, and Crystal Clarke round out the cast. First, a one-take film and now a teaser-length treatise on the ontology of the moving image … welcome to Film Theory 101. For the 102 course, check out a different movie released earlier this summer.

Empire of Light Teaser: Sam Mendes Is Into Film Theory