Thursday, October 19, 2006
Escaping The Owl
VIDEO: "The Owl" I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness
Somewhere in every human heart there is the owl.
This deep motivating fear keeps us both reaching for the light and struggling to be free. Yet the bird that holds us back is not just a product of our mind, it is hatched elsewhere.
This brilliant video from I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness (either the best band name ever, or the most pretentious) subtly develops a complex world of jailed emotions and a growing terror from inside. The animation is startling, beautifully detailed and yet so simple in its use of colors and sharp lines. The focus on the crow’s dilated pupils is a masterstroke, emphasizing the emotion from the opening shots while echoing the horror-flick soundtrack-ness of the song. There is a blind instinct of survival in the crow, it closes its eyes only to blink from necessity, otherwise it is firmly fixed on the owl protruding out of the darkness.
But for the first half of the video we are unaware of what it is that causes this intense fear. It opens with a stunning series of images; the string that shakes with the guitar chords, the opening of light and the claw caught in that same string. The story builds on the falling objects that hit and skew past the captive animal. Particular emphasis is given to a stick of lipstick, which falls in slow motion towards the bird. There is also a soda can tab and a fast food box; trash mostly. But more than that these objects represent something of our modern culture, if nothing else this fast food ideology of instant gratification. And perhaps the warbling string is a reference to the role popular music plays in this process. We consume and we move on in order to avoid looking inside; inside where this epic battle between hope and despair rages. But it’s that falling lipstick that is the most chilling reminder of how our obsession with outer appearance is also rooted in a fear of ourselves, and more disturbingly, it’s a self-image that is reinforced by popular culture and our society. We would almost prefer hiding behind masks than having to face our “hearts of darkness.”
The video, of course, finally unveils itself with the shocking revelation of the owl. Stoic and far less visible, there is a truly sinister quality to the bird whose feathers ever so slightly waver in the wind. Owls are not typically the most terrifying of birds, in fact, the crow is traditionally a symbol of death and evil. But owls come out at night, and owls hoot and hide in shadow during the day. It’s an awesomely powerful image. The depth and skill of the animation and direction of this work cannot be overstated. It's breathtaking and almost overwhelming in it's tension; a complete mastery of form.
But what is key to this entire process is realizing that both the owl and the crow are emerging from the same darkness. The crow is tethered by his own fear, his panicked attempt at escape is not succeeding because he is constantly conscious of the owl that “hunts” him. That is not to say that we have nothing to fear, it would be naïve to assume that thousands of years of social mores and customs can be erased from our psyches in one fatal swoop. But we can overcome the terror of being ourselves, this fear of the light. Because in the end, that is what we fear the most; emerging in the light only to find it less satisfying than we hoped. Yet would we rather toil in this miserable state of constant escape than explore the unknown?