Trailers don’t get more haunting than the one for Tim Sutton’s Dark Night, a film that debuted at Sundance last year and tracks the activities of six strangers on the day of a mass shooting that is loosely based on the real-life shooting that took place in Aurora, Colo., in 2012.
Lensed by French DP Hélène Louvart (The Beaches of Agnes, Pina), the images of the mundane that we see in the trailer—kids swimming in a lake, boys skateboarding through a parking lot—are charged by the expectation that all will culminate in devastating violence. The fog of impending tragedy has the effect of turning life into a waking dream, and Louvart seems to have channeled this phenomenon by imbuing the quotidian with a strain of the surreal. In the trailer, extreme long shots and shallow-focus filmmaking create a trance-like visual experience marked by characters who drift wordlessly through barren suburban vistas, and the music, which echoes like a siren’s song from deep within the subconscious, contributes to this effect.
In the film’s conceit of framing mundane non-events against imminent, based-in-real-life tragedy via a visual aesthetic that is, according to the film’s official summary, paradoxically both “documentary-style” and “dream-like,” Dark Night brings to mind Gus Van Sant’s Columbine-inspired Elephant, but also Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station, which follows a fictionalized version of the late Oscar Grant III in the hours leading up to his fatal shooting by a police officer. But whereas Coogler’s film is filled with warmth and sorrow, the trailer for Dark Night suggests a penetrating coldness. The latter’s synopsis sheds light on this fascinating choice in tone by claiming that Dark Night articulates its “characters’ sense of alienation and suburban malaise.” In light of this description, it appears that Sutton did not revisit the events at Aurora merely to create an elegy, but also to mount a treatise on greater pathologies within American society.
Check out the full trailer above. Dark Night hits select theaters on Feb. 3.