“I’m the one writing this story,” declares Jack (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a murderous drifter who wreaks havoc on the home of struggling screenwriter Paul (Antonio Banderas) in the new trailer for Black Butterfly, adapted from the 2008 French thriller Papillon Noir. The comment could merely be a lame dominance metaphor that appeals to Paul’s occupation, but it could also point to what makes movies about writers and writing so consistently fascinating. When plot foregrounds storytelling, the viewer’s attention is drawn also to the telling of the film they are watching, leading to reflection on the creative process more generally. Even when a character’s status as a writer feels incidental to the plot at hand—such as in 2016’s Hush, wherein the heroine’s writerly profession comes into play mainly as justification for her later resourcefulness—the fact that such a vocation was chosen at all tends to shift the viewer’s dynamic with the film in fascinating ways.
Actually, Black Butterfly seems to share more than a few things in common with Hush. Both movies feature a reclusive writer whose solitude is brutally interrupted by a murderer whose plans lead to the writer being stranded at home. From there, the two movies seem to diverge, with Hush morphing into a no-frills home invasion thriller and Black Butterfly remaining at present somewhat ambiguous in its intentions. From the trailer, it appears that Jack, who peeks at Paul’s screenplay without the latter’s permission, wants to instruct the writer on matters of authenticity, which is presumably lacking from the draft; at one point, Jack asks him menacingly, “How does it feel to see a real murder?” Although this “instruction” is obviously twisted, it also alludes to legitimate questions of the relationship between art and reality, and how much obligation the former has to the latter.
Whether Black Butterfly will pursue such ideas or leave them on the margins remains to be seen, but despite its largely generic-looking trailer, there is potential here for a film that doesn’t merely tell a story but meditates on what it means to do so.
Check out the full trailer above, and catch the film when it hits theaters and on-demand on May 26. You can also find its official poster below.