I don’t share most audience members’ love of being disoriented by the camera in films. In trailers, however, I appreciate that the game is a little different – the director wants to give an audience member enough cause to be intrigued, but not enough material from the feature to think that they’ve already got the juicy bits out of the way. Hence trailers for comedies typically fall flat so much more often than do trailers for, say, dramas. The jokes have to be delivered in a way that’s funny in the trailer, and telling them anew in the feature means that they lose their spontaneous flair.
But I just came across this trailer for the film Leviathan (2012), which is a documentary about the fishing industry. The trailer, I think, is superb on its own merits, without telling me all that much about the film. It’s unquestionably disorienting, and I find it supremely effective.
I don’t know whether the film is supposedly shot from the perspective of a fish, or even from that of the eponymous Leviathan; I don’t know whether the Leviathan is a phantasm told as myth among the sailors, and is therefore a cinematic conceit, or whether the Leviathan is the industry itself; I don’t know whether the film paints the sailors sympathetically or pathetically; I can’t tell most of the time what on Earth is going on on the screen, but I think it’s mesmerising. In short, I really can’t say much about what direction the film takes at all, but I certainly want to go see it.
Kudos to the director. I imagine that whole classes at film school are devoted to how one packages one’s feature-length film into an intriguing two-minute clip. If so, I think this one aces it. See for yourself (apologies if the link doesn’t show up [insert typical Luddite self-deprecating note about one’s inability to use technology]):