With the exception of Marie Antoinette, Sofia Coppola has thus far focused mainly on charting the rhythms of modern life, whether it’s through portraying loneliness and the city in Lost in Translation or examining the Internet-fueled avarice of The Bling Ring. Her latest film, however, travels back in time to the Civil War era and stars Kirsten Dunst—who has stepped out of Versailles and into a Confederate girls’ boarding school—along with a star-studded cast that includes Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning and Colin Farrell. Moreover, judging from the look of the film’s first trailer, Coppola’s new aesthetic is miles away from the director’s recurring interest in ethereality and emptiness, plunging instead into a seedy, sweat- and shadow-drenched world of seduction and betrayal.
The Beguiled, based on Thomas Cullinan’s 1966 novel A Painted Devil and Don Siegel’s 1971 adaptation starring Clint Eastwood, tells of a wounded Union soldier (Farrell) who seduces various women within the aforementioned boarding school during his convalescence/imprisonment within its walls. As the trailer suggests through the ghoulish music underscoring its latter segment, this tale of jealousy, duplicity and desire takes a dark turn as the seduced antagonize one another and, eventually, turn on the soldier himself. By the time the film’s title, written in blood-colored script not unlike the typography of the poster for Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, appears in the trailer against an eerily lit shot of the mansion-like boarding school, The Beguiled has all but succeeded in coming across as a horror movie; it hardly helps that Farrell’s scream from an earlier moment in the trailer is still echoing in our ears.
Will this film be a Southern-gothic take on a marriage of John Tucker Must Die and Audition, one in which girls band together against misogyny with both satisfying and chilling results? Or will it be something else that defies easy categorization? Surmise for yourself by watching the full trailer above, and be on the lookout for the film when it hits theaters on June 23.