Olivia Colman and Micheal Ward emerge from the darkness of their pasts to find love in the bright lights of an English seaside movie house in the teaser trailer for director Sam Mendes’ Empire of Light, which is set for a world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival.
“Film. It’s just static frames, with darkness in between,” Toby Jones’ projector operator character says at one point in a voiceover. But if run at 24 frames per second, an illusion of light and motion results on the cinema screen.
“An illusion of life, so you don’t see the darkness,” the trailer continues.
And the bright lights and lit marquee of the old movie house, framed by cinematographer Roger Deakins, is in the trailer all the while interspersed with shots of Colman — whose front-of-house cinema worker character Hilary hides a troubled past — finding a budding and taboo romance with Stephen, a new employee played by Ward who has faced racism in 1980s Britain.
Mendes wrote the original script, marking his first solo outing as a screenwriter.
Searchlight Pictures’ Empire of Light, which also stars Colin Firth and is Mendes’ follow-up to his Oscar-winning drama, 1917, will release theatrically in the U.S. on Dec. 9. The filmmaker produced Empire of Light with partner Pippa Harris via the duo’s Neal Street Productions.