Empire Of Light

In the Empire Of Light teaser, Sam Mendes deconstructs the magic of cinema.

Olivia Colman, Michael Ward, and Colin Firth star in the director’s 1917 sequel.

In a spellbinding teaser for the upcoming Empire Of Light, Sam Mendes intertwines history, humanity, romance, and cinema. The film premieres in September at the Toronto International Film Festival before hitting theatres this winter.

In the teaser, Toby Jones narrates, “Film: It’s just static frames with darkness in between.” “However, your optic nerve has a flaw. So, if I run the film at 24 frames per second, I get the illusion of motion, of life. As a result, you are blind to the darkness. They only see a beam of light out there. And nothing happens in the absence of light.”

Empire Of Light, set in the English seaside in the 1980s, follows two people, Hilary and Stephen, as they enter a taboo relationship while working together in the local theatre. Hilary, played by Oscar winner Olivia Colman, seeks solace from her troubled past. Meanwhile, Stephen, played by Michael Ward, is constantly confronted with the racism that afflicts the small town. They find solace in one another and in film, and they quietly begin a touching romance.

With this meta synopsis, you’ll be in a movie theatre watching two people fall in love in a movie theatre. Maybe you’ll even fall in love—with cinema or with someone else.

Empire Of Light also stars Tom Brooke, Tanya Moodie, Hannah Onslow, Crystal Clarke, and Colin Firth, who previously appeared in Mendes’ Oscar-nominated film 1917. The director of American Beauty makes his solo screenwriting debut with Empire Of Light, with Mendes’ cinematography once again overseen by the legendary Roger Deakins.

Colman was nominated for an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for her work in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter. Ward directed Steve McQueen’s Small Axe episode “Lovers Rock” as a BAFTA winner.