Unsane, Steven Soderbergh’s unnerving portrait of a young woman who thinks she’s being held against her will at a mental institution, isn’t the first feature-length film that is notable for being be shot entirely on an iPhone; that distinction goes to 2015’s critically praised Tangerine.
But Unsane’s trailer, released on Monday, shows just how technically capable video has become since Tangerine was shot by Sean Baker on three iPhone 5s in early 2014. A rep for the film tells Inverse that the movie was shot on an iPhone 7 Plus.
Soderbergh’s film was shot in secret with actresses Claire Foy (Queen Elizabeth on The Crown on Netflix) and Juno Temple (who appears in Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams on Amazon).
Scenes in the trailer show off the phone’s ability to capture light and warmth and motion. It as beautifully shot as it is nerve-wracking. The nightmare of being held in an institution because people think you’re crazy comes to life in palettes of yellow and blue.
“I think this is the future,” Soderbergh said at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this month. “Anybody going to see [Unsane] who has no idea of the backstory to the production will have no idea this was shot on the phone. That’s not part of the conceit.”
The Unsane trailer features a number of Apple products and technology. An iPhone, a Macbook, those familiar white Apple earbuds, and the iMessage texting service all make an appearance. If Apple was looking for a commercial to show off the power of its creative technology — the subject matter of Unsane may not be brand-safe, but a critically praised director was using an iPhone is — this film would prove a tempting opportunity.
Apple has long relied on product placement in media to sell its products. A 2012 story in SF Gate attributed this remark to Phil Schiller, Apple’s Marketing chief: Apple works closely with Hollywood on so-called product placement so its gadgets are used in movies and television shows.
Interestingly, when asked for advice on how to make a movie during a reddit AMA in August 2017 ahead of the release of his caper Logan Lucky, Soderbergh offered this DIY recommendation: “Get a script and an iPhone and start shooting. Seriously.” Apparently, he had already taken his own advice.
Plot details about Unsane were sketchy when they came out last summer, but the official synopsis released Monday goes like this: “A young woman is involuntarily committed to a mental institution where she is confronted by her greatest fear — but is it real or is it a product of her delusion?” In addition to Foy and Temple, the film stars Joshua Leonard, Jay Pharaoh, Aimee Mullins, and Amy Irving.
News of the film first surfaced in July, via a report by Tracking Board, a trade publication.
Unsane premieres at the Berlin International Film Festival.