Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Mo(u)rning to Wake You: "The Funeral"

VIDEO: Band of Horses "The Funeral"

The distant somber notes of “The Funeral” are brought forcibly into focus through the bleak imagery of this video. For a song that lyrically remains perplexing, even if thematically it screams obvious, this type of layered video is more than revealing.

Much like the lyrics, the video is on the surface quite blatant in its attempt to set mood. The hazy gloss over the entirety of the work plays like the chorus of the song, “At every occasion I’ll be waiting for the funeral,” and it gives it not only the feeling of aging, but also references the earliest artistic techniques of cinema (perhaps citing the death of silent film). But the images that briefly accompany this lonely barstool on his way to death are what give the piece weight and emotional significance beyond just thoughts on death.

The elderly man (who looks somewhat like the now deceased Walter Matthau), begins the clip presumably driving home from work. His hands are on the wheel firmly and he makes sure to use his signal, following all the rules of the road. He pulls over at a local bar for a drink before he heads home. Yet once he gets a few drinks in him, home begins to drift into the distance. The bland repetitiveness of his life begins to creep ever so slightly into his mind. First there is the young girl at the end of the bar that ignores him and perhaps reminds him of past loves, secondly the friendly dog in his drink (who most likely has passed away) pushes forward thoughts on loss, and finally the blurred images of a thousand nights at the same bar on the same barstool.

The elements of his slipping life begin to intoxicate him, and his only recourse is the drink and the record player. He puts on his favorite track, and drowns himself in the liquor. Music has the power to elevate, but it also has the power to amplify misery. Our protagonist falls further and further into the drink and as he recalls his youth one image particularly strikes him. The image of himself as a pilot; giving orders and soaring through the clouds. It would seem that this man had a climactic moment of life, but it passed so many decades before this moment. And while he tragically meets his death, there is something joyous in his final breathes. The way he lets go of the steering wheel, doesn’t use his signal, the way he reclaims the skies and is reborn as a young pilot flying into the sun.

But the monotony of modern life is what lingers on after the video is done. Perhaps it is the monotony of aging, but perhaps it is only when we are aged that we realize how stuck we are in routine. This is why Band of Horses are thinking of their funerals today, at every occasion, even as 20 somethings. Because life passes too quickly, and sooner or later you will be at the bar on that barstool. But the question remains, what will your memories be, and will you always have more to live for?

Live each day as if it where your last is perhaps too simple, but there’s something to it nonetheless.

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Depth of Focus Videographies: Radiohead / Bjork / Michael Jackson / Bowie