It’s the apparent story of a blimp magnate’s chrome 7 Series—and it gets weirder from there.
BMW has a long history with cinema, most of it on the cutting edge of style and presence. The company is so renowned, in fact, that academic institutions regularly teach lessons in film as a marketing tool using perhaps the most famous of BMW’s releases, The Hire, an eight-part film series bringing together globally-renowned directors (including Neill Blomkamp, Guy Ritchie, and John Frankenheimer, among others) and a star-studded cast to create eight stories of intrigue, drama, and mystery, led by Clive Owen in the latest BMW models of the era.
But while The Hire gets all the press, it takes a lot of media to run a company like BMW day in and day out. There are commercials (with a long history of success to measure against), training videos, safety videos, executive introductions, and auto-show teasers. Practically every department, for internal or external use, hires agencies and video-production teams to produce content, always trying to pit budget against ambition, and to create a memorable product.
But when pushing the envelope, sometimes the paper must be torn, and this brings us to launch films.
Launch films are often the media’s first introduction to a model, shown in perfectly-calibrated screens in Munich theaters, or in darkened auto-show booths. They have to be captivating and dramatic, artistic yet scientific. Launch films are simultaneously some of the most beautiful automotive cinema experiences, and the most absurd.
Still, there are times when a flowing veil or a mid-desert art installation seem almost mundane compared to the ideas dreamed up by some agencies, and even after years of watching models come to market, the video you are about to watch is one of the strangest I have ever seen.
I have searched for this film for years, and truth be told, I had started to feel like I had seen it in some fever dream, or perhaps on some alternate, Mandela-effected timeline. It first entered my life in 2015, during research for the then-new G12 7 Series, hosted at the time on BMW’s press-video archive. When I went to look for it earlier this year, it had disappeared—but today, after years of believing it was lost, I found the film.
Behold the simply-titled YouTube video “BMW 7 Series Launch Film,” uploaded by the composer, Julian Scott, responsible for the bespoke soundtrack. The only information I could find—in fact, the only that exists online—was that it had been directed by Mark Aldridge, a film producer active in the early and mid-2000s, according to IMDb.
This particular work may have been seared from the Internet, but one would surmise that it was released around early 2001, prior to the start of E65 7 Series production in July of that year—and boy, is it trippy.
I won’t spoil the experience for you, but I would recommend playing in full screen so you can appreciate everything this film has to offer as we follow our 7 Series-owning hero through his bizarre world. These elements include—but are not limited to—mimes, late-90s CGI, tightropes, business, meditation, ethereal choirs, teleportation…
… and surprisingly little of the Adrian van Hooydonk-designed E65 7 Series.
We don’t mention this strange piece of film to mock the agency responsible (although agencies often have rather strange ideas, and in this case it would be so tantalizingly easy), but simply to show that sometimes ideas don’t translate from the boardroom to the theater (or, as the case may be, the street). Clearly, ideas present here are supposed to reflect the values of the 7 Series—technology, ease of use, mimes—but have fallen quite flat due to the ravages of time and computer-imaging technology. At the time, much like the E65 itself, the vision must have been considered strong and bold, but in practice, those ideas can be met with resistance—or in some cases, absolute befuddlement.
Thankfully, it’s been almost 20 years since the design of this particular 7 Series and the film that launched it were completed. So with teasing nostalgia, we feel it’s a great opportunity to look back and collectively as, “What was going on in the early 2000s?”—David Rose
[Images and video courtesy BMW AG.]