In 2012, director Bart Layton shook the filmmaking world. His sharp true-crime documentary The Imposter seamlessly blended hyper-stylized reenactments and real-life interviews, ultimately scoring Layton a BAFTA for Outstanding Debut. Now the filmmaker plans to build on that legacy of sleek fusion with American Animals, his 2018 Sundance debut that seeks to even further blend documentary and fiction. It’s a difficult balance to strike, and an even harder one to describe, but luckily you can now see the first four minutes of this art heist film for yourself. Distributor The Orchard has posted the film’s opening sequence to tease potential viewers heading into the film’s second week in theaters. Check it out below.
American Animals describes an art heist conducted by four middle-class Kentucky college students in 2004. The opening sequence cuts between footage of lead Evan Peters preparing his criminal disguise, actual family members of the perpetrators, and slow pans over Audobon prints. Of course, the teaser cuts away just as the felonious foursome approach their target, the Transylvania University library, but this sneak peek offers a fantastic glimpse into Layton’s bombastic filmmaking style. After the film opens with a quote from Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, it also cuts to a title card that reads, “This is not based on a true story.” With a whoosh, the middle words are swept out to reveal, “This is a true story.”
Whether you think this style is too flashy or you’re absolutely along for the ride, this is a unique marketing move that’s certainly worth a watch. It’s not often you get to see a film’s opening on YouTube—and you’re even less likely to see Evan Peters put on an elaborate fake beard in close-up.