So intones the voiceover that begins the trailer for Empire of Light, Sam Mendes' ode to cinema itself. Although plot details are somewhat vague, the movie is a love story set in and around a cinema — called the Empire — in 1980s England and stars Olivia Colman (an Oscar winner for The Favourite) and Micheal Ward.
"It's just static frames, with darkness in between," Toby Jones' projectionist narrates over the footage. "But there's a little flaw in your optic nerves, so if I run the film at 24 frames per second, it creates an illusion of motion, an illusion of life — so you don't see the darkness."
The movie marks Mendes' return after 1917, which earned 10 Oscar nominations and won three. Mendes himself was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. (His Oscar win came for directing 1999's American Beauty.) Empire of Light reunites the filmmaker with cinematographer Roger Deakins, whose work on 1917 won him the Oscar for Best Cinematography. (He first won the award in 2018 for Blade Runner 2049 following 13 nominations.)
That's just the tip of the Oscar talent working on this: The cast includes Colin Firth (an Oscar winner for The King's Speech); the music is by 15-time Oscar nominee Thomas Newman and two-time winner Atticus Ross (The Social Network and Soul); editing is by Lee Smith (who won for Dunkirk); and the costumes are by Alexandra Byrne (who won for Elizabeth: The Golden Age).
Empire of Light will premiere during this year's Toronto International Film Festival before opening in theaters on Dec. 9. Watch the trailer below.