Short Film Research – Music Videos

Speaking of music videos, I’ve recently gotten into Bruce Springsteen. Something I randomly watched recently (I say ‘randomly’ – it’s probably my favourite song of his) was this one-shot music video that caught my attention due to it’s simplicity. (I mean, is this not the most simple music video you’ve ever seen?). I really liked the use of the slow zoom-in to Springsteen’s face – it was slow zooming techniques like this that I wanted to apply to my film. This music video is also graded black and white – something I was also to use in my film (in varying degrees).

I like the way you can see the emotion in the singer’s eyes towards the end of the shot. He’s not strictly an actor, but although he’s singing from the heart, the effect of the slow zoom-in allows you to see the emotion in his facial features more definitively as the song goes along. Yes, you can probably argue with semiology that he’s representing America with his house and his clothes and his stereotypical guitar, and that the song represents every American / ‘western’ person as being someone with a ‘mask’ that we all hide behind (and so on…) But for me, it just the simplicity. Again, much like ‘Tune For Two’, media production doesn’t get much simpler than this. I’m not saying this music video won any awards (maybe it did, maybe it didn’t). But you remember it, and thus it is effective.

This video got me thinking – although I’m here doing short film research for my own film (and coming across very little so far relating to my own film!), have music videos and their little ‘short stories’ wthin them influenced my gothic nature of film style at all? I was always quick to cite Tim Burton and Emilie Autumn as obvious inspirations. Notably – Emilie Autumn has very little in the way of music videos (in fact, I’m not sure if she even has one.)

This took me somewhere interesting – not the music of my teenage years which were all metal and gothic (and obvious), but back even further than that. Anyone one my Facebook page who tuned in to my ’30 Day Song Challenge’ that I undertook at the start of 2012 will know that one of my favourite pop songs of all time is from someone whom you probably wouldn’t label me as being a fan of – Madonna.

The Immaculate Collection was one of my first albums that I ever bought (may have even literally been the first, actually). There were several songs on it that I was familiar with, and one of them was the song ‘Vogue’, which I’ve always been fond of because it was released a month before I was born (namely, late March of 1990). You could say I’ve also always been obsessed with films, narratives and cinematography, so the content based around the Golden Age of Hollywood would come as no surprise to most.

However, look closer and you may start to see signs of that early gothic style coming through. Looking beyond the obvious black and white desaturation (that was big at the time, and particularly for Madonna – check out the songs Erotica and Justify My Love as well), I think the use of the piano in the chorus melody was an early signifier. There’s a strong use of black and white colour schemes throughout the video, as well as the strange ‘Vogue’ dancers that Madonna was trying to promote as her new dancing ‘style’.

The sexual undertones of the video is something that could well relate to my own FMP – the whole alternative scene of my teenage years was ridden with… well, you know, ‘teen stuff’, so it comes as no surprise to me that Gothic styles of media are often immersed with seductive and darkly sexual subtexts. That we have a fallen angel alone brings about sexuality in my film (regardless of what the script has printed out). We also have a university student, which pretty much sets the romantic sub plot out from the start. Can the roots be traced back to Madonna? Most likely – after all, the original short story I wrote was during the same year I purchased The Immaculate Collection. Strange indeed.

The Birthday Massacre. Here is another relic of my later teenage years, and this song was on my older blog address as one of my favourite albums of all time. Although the readings of gothic songs are always questionable (and at the imagination of the beholder), to me the song ‘Nevermind’ was based around a girl in love with a boy. The boy goes to university, and when he returns, he is changed, and she doesn’t understand him any more, and so feels like she’s wasted her time waiting for him to return to her hometown having done little with her own life.

Such depressing premises were big a few years ago (at least in my social circles!), but there were one or two songs that actually incorporated the normality of academic success with the failures of alternative life. Many underground songs are often about the anger felt towards society – either how ‘messed up’ it all is, or how individually nobody feels like they fit in (indeed, that was probably how alternative culture was born!). My film – again – is no exception, only it turns the theme on it’s head by having the ‘normal’ student getting his life sorted out by the ‘alternative / gothic’ character, who seems to be the more stern and solid character of the two.

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