The trailer for Terrence Malick‘s “Tree Of Life,” which premieres at Cannes, is beautiful.
It’s almost beautiful enough to make you forget that it doesn’t give away a single thing about the film’s story.
That’s an effect Fox Searchlight is betting will counterintuitively bring eyes to the movie.
The studio’s introduction strategy for a film that promises to be mysterious and cerebral is mysterious and cerebral itself.
We know what they believe we need to know in order for them to fill seats: Brad Pitt and Sean Penn are in this movie. That much, you can’t miss.
But other than that, it seems, the more “information” the studio puts out about the movie, the less we know about it.
Case in point: this website, dubbed “Two Ways Through Life,” which Fox Searchlight mounted in April. The site invites users to view life “the mother’s way” or “the father’s way.”
Each page is accompanied by a wheel of photos, eerie mood music, and quotes devoid of context. One mother’s heading: “They do not endure by maintaining their rigidiity.” One father’s: “A large asteroid slams into the earth.”
Whew. “Inception” is feeling lighter by the minute.
Of course, a little secrecy never hurt anyone — and plenty of studios turn to evasive marketing to pique interest in their films. Think this summer’s “Super 8,” from Steven Spielberg and JJ Abrams, which has been kept tightly (and conspicuously) under wraps.
But fanboys can enjoy being kept in the dark by their Hollywood overlords because they know they’re guaranteed explosions and aliens — they just don’t know how they’re getting them.
The “Tree of Life” campaign, meanwhile, knowingly runs the risk of alienating moviegoers by making their brains hurt just from a preview — not to mention the risk of failing to deliver on their brand of obscure hype.
Fox Searchlight has 10 days between the film’s premiere at Cannes and its theatrical release in the U.S. It’s a limited run; the studio already knows this isn’t a film for everyone.
But if they barrel past intrigue and go straight to making even discerning cinephiles feel out of their depth, “Tree of Life” may prove to be a tough one to climb.