It’s the director’s first adventure into the genre film.
It has been four long years since Sofia Coppola last directed a feature film, 2013's The Bling Ring. But now the director is back with The Beguiled, and Wednesday’s release of the full-length trailer shows that it is Coppola’s first exploration into the world of genre film.
Coppola’s films are known for their attention to detail and use of natural lighting (with this latter detail often evoking the work of nineteenth century photographer Lady Clementina Hawarden). If Coppola’s viewers were to look at her feature debut The Virgin Suicides (1999), the themes she examines in her later films are already present: Coppola explores loneliness in worlds filled with people; she depicts portrayals of female friendship as simply existing rather than questioning and judging what forms them; and looks at the closeness between love and obsession.
However, while the themes are the same, each film is different in tone, and each story told in a distinct way to the one that came before. Where The Virgin Suicides is about the suicidal Lisbon sisters, Somewhere (2010) explores the relationship between father and daughter, while the story of the young French Queen seen in Marie Antoinette (2006) remains one of Coppola’s biggest productions yet.
However, the latest trailer for The Beguiled shows that the film will be the director’s first adventure into the genre film. The white southern dresses, sepia undertones of the lighting and production design, and the hint of gunplay presents the western genre’s presence. Meanwhile, Coppola’s voyeuristic camera also places the film into the thriller genre. From the trailer, the director doesn’t seem to be breaking the rules of the genre here, presenting an interesting challenge for a director who works in films that are largely either unable to be categorized or of genres of her own making.
The only tradition that is broken is the 1966 novel’s focus on the male perspective, with Coppola instead adapting this story off of which The Beguiled is based to look at the female point of view. As Coppola has said of the film, “the main crux of the story is about the dynamics between a group of women all stuck together, and then also the power shifts between men and women.” The “exotic setting of the Southern gentility,” as Coppola refers to it, and its following of the thriller western genre’s conventions contrasts with the gender dynamics broken by Coppola’s choice to focus on the women. She is at once breaking the rules of the original story yet adhering to its style, hopefully adding a multifaceted layer to an already complex tale.
What’s more, Coppola has noted she hasn’t “really done a genre film.” She’s said of The Beguiled’s genre, “it was fun to figure out how to approach that but still [keep the film] in my style, and to have this kind of beautiful, dreamy world that I like — but with a plot!” Let’s hope the dreamy world of Coppola can still exist in the world of westerns.
The Beguiled will be released on 23 June, and don’t forget to see it in the cinema.