Terrence Malick’s Louis Vuitton “Towards A Dream In The USA” Commercial (2022)

As the enigmatic director Terrence Malick has gradually inched out more into the public eye, boosting the increased pace of his output with rare in-person promotional appearances, so too has he begun to engage with the wider ecosphere of the moving image. What was once a career marked exclusively by theatrical features, spaced many years — sometimes decades — apart has grown to include a handful of commercials and even an experimental foray into virtual reality. Sometime after wrapping production on his still-forthcoming feature, tentatively titled THE WAY OF THE WIND, Malick would find himself conscripted by the high-end luxury brand Louis Vuitton to make a contribution to their latest advertising campaign. The result, 2022’s “TOWARDS A DREAM IN THE USA” is an undeniable bearer of Malick’s artistic signature within a medium that routinely forces filmmakers to sublimate their sensibilities in service to a product or brand identity.

Set to a stirring piano composition extracted from Michael Nyman’s score for THE PIANO (1993), the spot finds a group of kids using their imaginations — and a large trunk festooned with the Louis Vuitton logo  — as a conduit for sprawling adventure. With essentially two main creative decisions, Malick leverages his unique ability to conjure the air of myth through simple images; he dresses the children in an all-black uniform of sorts, while throwing them into a variety of elemental landscapes. Using the dramatic dunes of New Mexico’s White Sands National Park as well as the fields, lakes and forests found outside his residence in Austin, Texas, Malick captures an abstracted and expressive backdrop that underscores the grandeur of his subjects’ fertile imaginations. With the simple inclusion of a mirrored floor at the bottom of the trunk, reflecting the boundless opportunity of clear skies, Malick ties these disparate backdrops while fostering a tempered sense of magical realism.

On the whole, “TOWARDS A DREAM IN THE USA” plays like a marriage between Malick’s latter-day storytelling style and his debut film, BADLANDS (1976). HIs restless camera roams freely around each vignette, jockeying to position itself with the sun’s golden-hour glow behind his subjects and embracing them in the close-up distortion of his wide-angle lens. One shot in particular, whereby the children release a balloon up into the sky, directly evokes a similar moment from his first feature. If it weren’t in service to advertising, it would almost be a sublime full-circle moment, demonstrating how closely Malick has hewn to his initial sensibilities even as his technical style has evolved considerably. That said style can be deployed towards commercial purposes as effectively as narrative ones speaks to its experiential resonance— and to Malick’s profound influence on the medium of the moving image in all its applications.

“TOWARDS A DREAM IN THE USA” is currently available on YouTube via the embed above.


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