Olivia Colman, Michael Ward and Olivia Colman in “Empire of Light”

“Movie,” says the film’s projectionist, Toby Jones, in the dingy Empire projection booth lined with portraits of movie stars on the walls. “It’s just static images with darkness in between.” But because the eyes cannot distinguish the shutter between the photographs that make up a film, the rapid succession of still images at 24 frames per second creates an illusion of movement. Or, as Toby Jones puts it: “An illusion of life. So you don’t see the darkness. This philosophical projectionist, who looks like an undergraduate film professor addicted to the writings of André Bazin, narrates the teaser for the next film by Sam Mendes Empire of Light. Starring Oscar winner Olivia Colman and BAFTA winner Michael Ward, the film is set in a 1980s English seaside town, where a romance blossoms between a local Empire cinema employee and a woman who has just returned to town. However, the relationship can be strained. Movie magic may have brought the interracial couple together, but the reality of racism is right outside the theater door. The film reunites Mendes with cinematographer Roger Deakins, whose work on 1917 won him the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for his one-take magic. Toby Jones, Colin Firth, Tom Brooke, Tanya Moodie, Hannah Onslow and Crystal Clarke round out the cast. First a one-take film and now a lengthy treatise on moving image ontology… welcome to Film Theory 101. For course 102, check out another film released earlier this summer.

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