Sunday, October 09, 2005

96. movie trailers (film buffs only)

I love movie trailers. I mean, I REALLY love movie trailers. And I'm not sure why. And so I'm going to take a trailer from the movie, Elizabethtown and kind of analyze it cut by cut. (You can click on that link and watch the trailer I'm talking about by clicking on the "Video" link at the top.)

Here's the trailer breakdown:

It starts with the face of Orlando Bloom and a voice-over - his voice. "Let me tell you about my day."

And then it cuts to the face of Jeff Daniels speaking to Bloom. "You're about to lose this company; 972 Million dollars."

Cut to Daniels laughing, patting Bloom on the back. Then we go back to Bloom's VO. "I got fired by a Phil."

Cut to a female walking into the frame, through a doorway. Bloom, "I got dumped by an Ellen.

Cut to couple other scenes of this female and Bloom, obviously hinting at the end of their relationship.

Cut to Bloom on a couch in a residential setting. "And then when things couldn't get any worse. . ."

Sound of a phone ringing.

Dissolve to woman on another couch in another residence. "Drew, it's your sister. I have some really bad news."

Quick dissolves to Bloom saying good bye to people.

Dissolve to an airplane at twilight or dusk.

VO "Louisville, Kentucky huh? Home business or family?" Dissolve to flight attendant (Kirsten Dunst) speaking to Bloom.

Bloom, "My dad."

Dunst, "He's okay right?"

Boom, looking down, "He's . . ." There is a pause and then he looks at Dunst.

Cut to Dunst looking back at him.

Dissolve to Bloom, alone, trying to sleep in the plane.

Cut to Dunst looking at him from down the aisle (camera pushing in on her face). She has a look of concern/interest, maybe a hint of attraction.

Dissolve to Bloom walking away from the baggage claim area.

Dissolve to Dunst taking a mental photograph of him walking away.

Dissolve to car driving down the road - music bed starts, mid-tempo rock song.

Fast cuts between Bloom at a family reunion with odd, obsequious family members, all pressing in a bit too close for Bloom's comfort.

Dissolve to Bloom, exhausted, sinking into a couch. Sound of a cell phone ringing.

"Hello, stranger." Dissolve to see Dunst speaking these words in an airport setting.

Dissolve to Bloom laughing with a cell phone to his ear.

The trailer goes into a kind of sub-plot where Bloom needs to go back to somewhere else, maybe his mother's house.

Dissolve to Bloom and Dunst overlooking a river valley. Dissolve to other montage clips.

Bloom VO, "we were actually going to drive down here together. We were supposed to get to know each other better as adults. Next year."

Dissolve to Bloom standing over a casket in a funeral home. He salutes his father.

Dissolve to Bloom and Dunst walking away from the camera down a long, wide, public space hallway - maybe the lobby of a hotel. Dissolve to two shot of Bloom and Dunst, Dunst looks up longingly at Bloom.

Dissolve to another scene with Dunst saying, "I have this thing for you."

Dissolve to Bloom turning around, looking back at Dunst (off screen).

"It's a very unique map." Cut back to Dunst handing Bloom a large box. "It's for your road trip home."

Cut to hand putting a CD into a car CD player.

"Cut to an interior shot looking out a car window driving down a long highway.

Dunst VO. "Roll down your window." Music starts.

Cut to Bloom at the wheel, laughing.

Dissolve to shots of Bloom opening a map, more shots of a car driving, landscapes, Bloom walking down a bridge, Dunst with a cell phone to her head, smiling.

Dunst VO. "This is your life. Let's do something interesting with it."

Dissolve between more quick shots of Bloom in various settings.

Dissolve to Bloom driving saying, "Dad, we should have taken this trip years ago."

Dissolve to more shots of car driving down the road.

Dissolve to Dunst shouting into a podium mic, in a large banquet hall setting, "I like you!"

Dissolve to Bloom looking at her with a confused/curious expression.

Cut back to Dunst at the podium. "What?"

Cut to wide two shot of Bloom facing Dunst, still behind the podium. "I think you should eat something."

Cut to Bloom kissing Dunst.

Cut to last star shots of Bloom and Dunst (with their names in text on the screen).

Cut back to two shot of Bloom kissing Dunst. He breaks the kiss then says, "please don't take this as rejection." Dunst says in reply, "I really don't." They kiss again.

Dissolve to title then credits.


All of that in what probably is no more than two or three minutes, but it's enough to build a story in the viewer's mind.

And maybe that's what's so great about it - we get these tiny hints, these little snippets of story and they form a kind of skeleton of a story, complete with bits from all three acts. But it's only an outline, painted with broad strokes, relying heavily on stereotypical filmic images - we see Dunst laughing while lying on the couch with a cell phone to her ear, and we automatically infer that she is falling in love.

But here's what's so great about trailers. We only get fed these very vague plot points and the images behind the voiceovers also serve as hints, but there are strategic breaks inserted where there are no voiceovers and our mind is left to fill in the details in whatever way we want.

And that's the genius of the trailer. With its purposely vague plot points, it tricks the viewer into filling in the holes with details that they want to see. And perhaps even more than that, it tempts us to use details that relate to our own life which can give the impression that this movie was made with you in mind - because you're using your imagination to fill in the gaps between the plot points and because they're left up to you, you fill them in with details that are meaningful to you. Thus, you're left with the feeling that you have to see this movie because you relate to it so well (even though you only relate to it because you filled in the gaps that way).

When you look at it this way, it's pretty subversive stuff - I mean seen this way, trailers really get inside your head and use your own expectations to sell the movie to you.

But I still love trailers. They fascinate me and more often than not (unfortunately), the trailer turns out to be better than the movie it's advertising.

1 comment:

Mike Hobart said...

Film trailers often turn out to be more entertaining than the movies they advertise!

I remember an article about this in the late lamented British weekly Punch which included a visit to the trailers department of a film distributor. The woman in charge confided that there were few films so awful that you couldn't find a couple of minutes to make a good trailer out of.