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watch the first trailer for sofia coppola's erotic southern gothic, the beguiled

Playing residents of a 19th century Virginia boarding school during the Civil War, Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning, and Kirsten Dunst put on stately Southern accents. Wounded Union Army soldier Colin Farrell keeps his Irish one.

by Emily Manning
|
09 February 2017, 10:26am

The first trailer for Sofia Coppola's hotly-anticipated Civil War drama The Beguiled has just been released. And though it's less than two minutes in length, some of the writer-director's signature elements are already apparent. It's a sexy yet sinister story led by a tribe of isolated women who occupy a beautiful space, but feel suffocated by it. Yet the film also looks to be more than just Virgin Suicides meets Marie Antoinette; it's a new direction for a director everyone thinks they can pin down.

The Beguiled is, like Coppola's adored debut feature, a book adaptation. Based on Thomas Cullinan's 1966 novel, the work is set in 1864 at the Miss Martha Farnsworth Seminary for Young Ladies. The Virginia girls' boarding school has largely been left untouched by the Civil War, and its residents -- among them headmistress Nicole Kidman, teacher Kirsten Dunst (in her fourth Coppola project), and student Elle Fanning -- live in relative seclusion on the school's stately grounds. The arrival of a wounded Union soldier, played by Colin Farrell, catalyzes deception, seduction, and betrayal among the women.

"I haven't really done a genre film," Coppola told Entertainment Weekly this morning. "It was fun to figure out how to approach that but still [keep the film] in my style, and to have this kind of beautiful, dreamy world that I like -- but with a plot!"

The Beguiled was previously adapted for the screen in 1971 by Don Siegel, who helmed cop and prison thrillers Dirty Harry and Escape From Alcatraz (the former film's star, Clint Eastwood, played Farrell's role). Coppola explained her ambition to shift that film's focus to interrogate the perspectives of its female characters. "The main crux of the story is about the dynamics between a group of women all stuck together, and then also the power shifts between men and women," she told EW. "So for me, it's very universal, but it's in this exotic setting of the Southern gentility."

That setting was rather popular in the late 80s and early 90s, when films like Fried Green Tomatoes, The Color Purple, Beloved, and Daughters of the Dust were released. That last one is the chief inspiration behind the project responsible for today's renewed interest in the Southern Gothic aesthetic: Beyoncé's Lemonade. Each of these projects is also firmly rooted in a strong female cast.

"It's just trying to create that atmosphere, so you can feel these long, hot days when not much is happening," Coppola told EW. "I liked that [the costumes] had been washed a million times and left out in the sun. It just felt very feminine, almost like they were ghosts left behind." The Beguiled will be released on 23 June. 

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Text Emily Manning