Sundance: Behind the Fight to Keep Plots Secret

'The One I Love,' 'I Origins' both feature tough-not-to-reveal storylines

Given the amount of noise generated at Sundance, it’s surprising that a number of surprises this year have managed to stay … surprises.

From Tuesday night’s secret screening of “Nymphomaniac: Part 1,” which really did stay a secret despite a few accurate predictions (the length of the movie turned out to be one giveaway) to several high-profile films premiering in Park City, publicists, filmmakers and sales agents are fighting to keep details on the QT in order to maximize the impact of their projects. (Rest assured, there are no spoilers here.)

At a Wednesday morning screening of “The One I Love,” a comedy-drama about a troubled married couple who go for a weekend retreat and stuff happens (seriously, it’s hard to say much else), star and exec producer Mark Duplass said the topic of preserving the film’s secret even after the festival ends has been top-of-mind for the filmmakers.

“In an ideal world, we would just say in the trailer, ‘This movie is fucking awesome! Go see it!'” Duplass said during a Q&A after the screening. “But I don’t know, we don’t know how to market movies. We hope someone else does.”

In the festival’s catalog, the description of the film is so purposefully vague that its full effect is lost somewhat, a challenge that could affect sales when buyers look ahead to marketing the film.

Likewise, another Premiere entry — Mike Cahill’s sci-fi mystery “I Origins,” which tackles big ideas of self and spirituality tied to science — features a tough-to-describe plot, though Fox Searchlight ultimately laid down the cash for worldwide rights.

Even with reviews circulating from nearly every major entertainment publication, the integrity of the plot for both films has managed to stay intact.

Variety‘s Geoff Berkshire tweeted: “Great part of fests is seeing a movie like ‘The One I Know’ without knowing anything. Bad part is trying to review without spoiling for everyone else.”

Ultimately, Berkshire kept plot details to a minimum, saying, “Boasting spectacular performances from Duplass and Elisabeth Moss as a husband and wife on the brink of separation, this incredibly assured directorial debut of Charlie McDowell essentially turns the idea of a two-hander upside down and inside out.”

Intriguing, yet huh? Welcome to Sundance.

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