Stella picks Papillon theme

The new television advertising for Stella Artois is dropping its Jean de Florette style to draw on the influence of Papillon for a campaign aimed at reinforcing the brand's position as the UK's leading premium lager.

The big-budget ad, which has a cast of hundreds and forsakes French rustic charm for the brutal life on a French prison ship bound for Devil's Island, will roll out nationally in cinemas from next month and move on to TV in April.

Its appearance gives a new twist to the series of mini-epics produced by Lowe since 1991 under the "Reassuringly expensive" theme. Starcom Motive is planning and buying media for the campaign.

With a cast of more than 850 extras and a reported budget of £750,000, the latest ad was shot over six days in the streets of Buenos Aires and on an 80-year-old ship in the River Plate.

Inspired by Papillon, the Henri Charriere novel and Franklin J Schaffner film, it tells the story of a prisoner who is forced to hit a guard with a soup ladle to get himself thrown into solitary confinement so that he can enjoy the bottle of Stella that has accidentally come his way.

Devised by the senior Lowe creative Vince Squibb, the film was shot by Jonathan Glazer through Academy.

Jeremy Bowles, Lowe's managing director, described the ad as an "exceptional piece of film that will continue to perpetuate the brand's phenomenal success".