You’ve got one guess as to what song is embedded in the trailer for director Noah Hawley’s Lucy in the Sky. Rather than simply insert the Beatles tune, however, motivic fragments from “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” are scattered across the two and a half minute running time like a fever dream, with just the faintest hints of the tune’s famous, chromatically tumbling piano line in the first few seconds.
While not a biopic, the film—starring Natalie Portman, co-starring Dan Stevens, Jon Hamm, and Nick Offerman—is roughly based on the true story of American astronaut Lisa Nowak, who in 2007 found herself driven abduct her unrequited love’s partner. In the film, Lucy Cola (Portman) is wrestling both with a love affair of her own making in addition to an obsessive need to return to space.
After the motif is repeated once, the music segues to a haze of strings as dialogue takes the fore and a punishing bass tone promptly joins it. The image becomes vertically letterboxed—possibly a technique to signify a more personal perspective on the subject.
The middle section deconstructs elements of the Lucy motif, with a piano plaintively arpeggiating up and down a major third and an instrumentally ambiguous, vocal-like melody—perhaps a theremin—melancholically floating through the parallel minor key.
The arrangement builds from there, consolidating rhythmically once we’re shown Lucy’s commitment to infidelity, also showing an awards title card in the transition. At 1:35 the piano moves to triple meter, a time-honoured way of moving the intensity up a notch. We hear a hint of an epic choir at the 1:39 mark, entering full bore at 1:58. At this point, the piano is coming down like torrential rain, doubling the rhythm yet again with fluid, dynamic lines evocative of the late-Romantic music in the vein of Liszt. (Said rain appears on screen at 2:09, as the choir reaches its apex.) Throughout this segment, the vocals retain an outline of the basic chord progression of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” allowing the harmony to serve as the unifying element in the arrangement.
At 2:16 a single violin remains, all other instruments suddenly dropping out—a stark, almost shocking contrast that mirrors Lucy’s own sense of isolation back on Earth. As the description in the video above reads, “as Lucy’s world suddenly feels too small, her connection with reality slowly unravels.” It would be remiss not to also mention that this thematically connects to what the song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” is really about—LSD.
A final, direct statement of the “Lucy” motif rounds out the trailer alongside the main title card.
After premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, Lucy in the Sky debuts in theatres October 4th.
— Curtis Perry