Prada unveils “cinema poem” in Dada-inspired silent film

Prada Past Forward

Freida Pinto in Prada’s Past Forward silent film

Prada has released a short black-and-white film set in a futuristic silent dreamscape. Referred to by the brand as a “cinema poem” and a “complex collage”, it simultaneously stars Allison Williams, Freida Pinto and Kuoth Wiel in the same role, flicking seamlessly from one version of the lead character to the next.

The same goes for their male counterparts in John Krasinski, Jack Huston, and Sinqua Walls. Also featuring are Connie Britton and Paula Patton as adversaries, and Sacha Baron Cohen as a mouthless doctor.

On that level, “Past Forward”, as it’s called, is a surreal tale that includes everything from a chase and a fight scene, to a roll around on the beach and a particularly unique dance sequence.

There are tears, laughter, frights and more. There’s even a sci-fi twist with a triangular piece of glass that serves as a future smartphone device, and a direct reference to René Magritte’s The Lovers II painting from 1928, where a piece of fabric blocks two lovers’ embrace. It’s a “Dadaist plot”, as Vogue refers to it.

You have no idea if what you’re watching is a dream sequence, a series of memories or a reflection of chaotic modern (or future) life. And that’s the point. “The viewer is left to decode what is experience, what is memory, what is dream and discern the overlap and differences between them,” says the release.

But more than that, the entire 12-minute piece really is intended as a piece of art. Director David O Russell (known for big films including Joy, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle) said: “Here was the opportunity to make a journey guided by layers of movie memories, life images and emotions, with no aim except to create art – as if it were a painting or a sculpture – free from normal narrative or audience expectations. The cast and I worked simply for the joy of making art.”

In an interview with Vogue, he added: “It coalesced into this memory that’s also sort of a future. I almost think the whole thing is almost a premonition of how the country feels right now to me. Because the movies that I love, the dreams that I love, have a feeling of uncertainty in them.”

Prada Past Foward

Inspiration from René Magritte’s The Lovers II in Prada’s Past Forward silent film

“It’s almost like a painter experimenting with paint. And I was surprised in the edit room to say, ‘Look how different this feels when Freida is doing it. Look how this feels when Kuoth is doing it. How does it feel when Allison is doing it?’ It’s a process of discovery. I feel something different every time I watch it when it changes from one person to the next. I feel something inside me that says something about identity or culture or race, and in time they change.”

As Vogue explains, he references Alfred Hitchcock’s classic North by Northwest; the work of Franz Kafka; or automatic writing as popularized by André Breton, Robert Desnos, and their Surrealist crew in the 1920s as inspiration.

Prada isn’t the only fashion house working with Hollywood names of late. Burberry revealed The Tale of Thomas Burberry for the holiday season written by Matt Charman and directed by Asif Kapadia; Mulberry’s festive campaign was written by Hugo Guinness and directed by Albert Moya; and Moncler has also released a short film called Brave, Vision from Spike Lee.