Monday, October 23, 2006

The Horror In the Bedroom

VIDEO: "Prangin' Out" by The Streets

Mike Skinner has ventured into the world of drugs a number of times on record (and presumably elsewhere as well), but with the video for “Prangin’ Out” director Dawn Shadforth captures the fear and paranoia of drug abuse and expands it to a more universal level, finding themes in The Streets work that aren’t always as blatantly visible.

The cinematography is fluid and effective, creating a feeling of presence and mood that alludes specifically to The Shining but also recalls the feel of more recent horror films such as The Ring. The creepy camera panning across vacant and blandly colored spaces increases the building tension of not only the entire video, but each individual shot also captures the aura of imminent danger. The storytelling is also particularly effective in keeping the viewer compelled, while also sending shivers. The girl that Mike brings home is visually merged with another girl, one who looks distinctly freaky. A mysterious force blows pieces of paper away from Skinner, and in general the tale is told out of order, moving backwards and forwards in time fluidly. There are numerous shadowy figures emerging from darkness and quickly edited shots between seemingly dead and living people. The collection of these images gives one an immediate sense of confusion and discomfort, but on repeated viewings the plot becomes much clearer.

Yet regardless of whether or not one chooses to decipher the exact sequence of events, what becomes obvious is that this tale of drug-induced paranoia is in fact more about the self-doubt that plagues all of us. The potentially murderous past and future of the character Skinner plays in the video is a play upon his own regrets and “failures.” He often discusses past relationships and their eventual destruction in his work, and it’s this constant reminder of failure that prevents him from embracing a new love. It comes vividly to the screen in the bedroom scene where Skinner is unable to embrace the girl beside him because he's constantly reminded of his hideous past. He lets his demons control him and for that reason he not only fears new intimacy, but he also causes others to fear him (i.e the girl has visions of dead people as well). It’s this defensive mechanism that takes over in his mind at moments of weakness, and though he isn’t lashing out through acts of insanity or murder in the real world, he is turning to cocaine for relief.

The Shining allusions shed further light on the correlation between the song and the video. What Skinner slowly realizes is that he has suppressed something in his mind that is perhaps horrendous, but its something that will not stay dormant forever. We feel this fear of our inner “beast,” the savage ferocity of our passions that could at any moment take over. Todd Field’s In the Bedroom was a powerful study of the way in which society pushes these thoughts into the farthest corners (the privacy and isolation of the bedroom) until they have no choice but to emerge, and “Prangin’ Out” is working amongst the same themes. The hotel that Skinner roams is filled with strange characters and dirty secrets, and as he begins to explore the corridors of his mind he finds that there are dark places that he may not even be aware of.

But while this fear of finding something terrible may often prevent us from exploring our own thoughts, Skinner is an artist and one who specializes in bringing his inner most worlds to life. And thus it is through the act of writing (the paper that eludes his grasp leads him to the chilling bathroom scene) that he begins to catch glimpses of his fears, his guilt and where they originate. Unfortunately the paranoia and madness win in this particular instance, and it serves as a harrowing reminder of the need to deal and overcome our guilt, no matter how difficult and scary that may seem.

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