Trailers are an under-appreciated art form insofar that many times they’re seen as vehicles for showing footage, explaining films away, or showing their hand about what moviegoers can expect. Foreign, domestic, independent, big budget: What better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising? This week we bang our heads to some Icelandic death metal, get Donald Rumsfeld in the 1:1 cross-hairs, go down the road of an unwanted pregnancy, and try to find answers about a dead body.    

The Unknown Known Trailer

There’s a certain strange beauty in book-ending The Fog of War and this.

Errol Morris’ latest, which is literally and figuratively a close-up conversation with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, looks to examine the same kind of material. What works so well here is the way in which we just launch into your average, ordinary memo with no more context than the contents of that memo. The fact that it’s voiced over by the author of said memo gives this document an incredible dimension of measured emphasis and tone; the way he intended it to be received.

The trailer is effective not only for the way it’s voiced but for the way we see Donald simply deliver his thoughts on Iraq at the time and the way he engages who we probably have to assume is Errol off camera. There is a playful batting back and forth that belies the powerful force that was Rumsfeld when he was in charge of what happened. We linger longer than most subjects do when they’re talking about a moment in time but that’s Errol’s talent shining through what’s on the screen. Letting the moment just sit there for a moment and getting at a truth, their truth. Whether you agree with his politics or not he just has a well-manicured speaking style that is second to none.

Mister John Trailer

I could lie, but I won’t.

I just don’t know who Aidan Gillen is. Never seen an episode of Game of Thrones, never seen an episode of The Wire. Someday, but not now. For our purposes here, he’s perhaps one of the coolest cats I’ve seen strut across the screen in recent memory. What we get out of this trailer is everything and nothing. We establish the root of why we’re all here in the first place pretty damn quick but Aidan radiates the kind of quiet cool that could either be groan inducing or genuinely believable. Aidan comes off as the latter but there’s something dark about his persona. While he says he’s married, and this being the movies why not screw around a little while you’re in a foreign country, we see a sociopath that oozes violence and sexuality. A winning combo for any bride to be, for sure, but the trailer succeeds simply because we don’t know which way things are going to go. We’re led down a dark path that is peppered with intrigue and posits more questions than there are answers. Coming from directors Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy, this acts and feels like a muggy mystery that could fill up a couple of hours quite nicely.

Proxy Trailer

When we last visited director Zack Parker a couple of years ago he was out with a fresh indie entitled Scalene.

This, too, looks like it could fly under the radar but I hope it gets a little more attention. I’m fairly certain this is one of the best trailers I’ve seen in weeks. There is such a gripping quality to the words being spoken by our protagonist that, the words alone, is enough to make you slow down for a moment to take it all in. You feel what she’s talking about and what she’s saying, there’s an honesty about it, that quiet intensity where you don’t know which way it can go, but then you get the visual elements. Her pregnancy, the violent way in which her brood was extricated from her womb, the sadness of a woman who appears adrift and lost, it all careens into one another in an explosion that erupts quite nicely with the image of her screaming from a bathtub at the end. We don’t know quite what it’s all about but there’s just enough to whet your appetite to find out what kind of issues this woman is going through. From the looks of it there appears to be quite a bit of violence going on around her, both external and internal, and that will make for a compelling story about a woman who never wanted to be a mother.

Metalhead Trailer

Well OK then.

Two things I know Iceland is known for: It’s love for Hákarl, a rather pungent and fermented shark meat, and heavy metal. I’m fascinated by both of these things but it’s really the heavy metal thing that has always been a point of curiosity. Why this part of the world seems to embrace that form of music is beyond my ken but I do know that this looks like a rock solid narrative about a woman’s descent into the bowels of angst, the kind of which knows no bounds and is a force of nature. The trailer grabs you from the moment you begin as it’s really a slow burn that zigs then zags. I figure this is just the story of some jamoke who gets run over by the family’s plow with how it begins but it quickly establishes the daughter of this unit as the focal point. She seems lost and directionless but the great thing is that the descent into the black madness that is heavy metal starts to take a foothold. We’re not talking about a girl who becomes a mute but, quite the opposite, a girl who embraces the bombastic and liturgical quality of hard core metal. Acting out, rebelling against her parents, there seems to be no end to this and, thankfully, it goes beyond. At about the minute mark we just get unloaded on with visceral images of wanton fornication, late night tractor rides that will no doubt end in destruction, out of control behavior, and so many other tantalizing displays of someone just rudderless.

Director Ragnar Bragason’s previous work of note, Mr. Bjarnfreðarson, was a wild looking trip and this looks to push the boundaries of not just what is silly about those who have a difficult time fitting into normal society but this certainly raises the bar of the seriousness when it comes to conformity.

Nota bene: If you have any suggestions of trailers to possibly be included in this column, even have a trailer of your own to pitch, please let me know by sending me a note at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com or look me up via Twitter at @Stipp

In case you missed them, here are the other trailers we covered at /Film this week:

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