Friday, November 03, 2006

A Perilous Adventure


This stunningly crafted video for Mew’s smashing new single, “Special,” is a metaphorical study of the allure, joy and pain of love…

VIDEO: "Special" by Mew

In Antonioni’s L’Aventurra (1960), the seemingly perfect love of a couple is imposed upon by infidelity, lust and distrust. While a love triangle forms and then falls apart, the rough and placid environment itself because a major player in this evolution. By the end of the film things have changed irrevocably for the lovers, but there is a sense of possible renewal that illuminates the final scenes in rural Italy.

Directed by Martin De Thurah, this video lives in the same universe as L’Aventurra with its themes of black & white isolation and hypnotic use of water imagery (not to mention a beautiful lead actress whose looks are on par with Monica Vitti’s), but it’s also decidedly new wave, film noir and post-modern, referencing everything from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon to Eternal Sunshine. And it moves fluidly through all these places precisely because it deals with subject matter that is both universal and timeless.

The first image is a monumental one, a visually stunning shot of a woman bursting out of and then hovering above the dark water that surrounds her. Water is typically associated with re-birth, but here the director plays with that concept. The beginning of new love is the birth of an entirely new consciousness, new feelings and new heights of emotion. But as the couple embrace amidst the water, it serves as a sexual metaphor as much an emotional or spiritual one. The original feeling of attraction and seduction is further represented in the “dance” that takes place between the woman and her man. While at first flamboyantly opposed to the beat of the tune, the movements become more precise as the relationship progresses. It is at the climax of this mating tango that the woman is sent literally floating through the air, on a high of pure joy (a truly brilliant shot).

Everything is over-the-top, from the extreme symbolism to the ridiculously dramatic dancing of the lovers. Yet it is intentionally so, and representative of both the idealization of love and the way in which it can blind and overtake our senses. The bearded man jumps across tables to be nearer to his love, when he could have simply run around them. But notice as the woman soars ecstatically, she has her eyes closed, as if she is already dreaming of the present moment as it is happening. Love is the subject of many a dream, and for that reason we may often assume we are in it when we are not, or also fail to grasp it when we truly are.

As the couple moves further and further out of the water in which they where once immersed, they begin to lose the innocence and naivety of those first moments. We see the woman stare longingly out her window at the passing rapids, wishing for the rush of feeling that she once had. The couple has moved from the silly bliss of their courting dance to the more stagnant embrace of the living room. They have moved from the freedom of the outside to the domestication of home-living love, they are now officially together. But in that precise moment the entire process seems to lose its shine, faults begin to creep up, we notice the annoying things that we had ignored before and for the first time, we feel the disgust and fear of banality.

She slaps him hard across the face, but he seems almost resigned to that fact, almost expecting it. Yet perhaps what we don’t expect, and what she doesn’t either, is that he is willing to follow her back into the water – they are both ready to take the “plunge” again. Much like the aforementioned Eternal Sunshine, Mew captures here a very vital strand of the modern relationship dynamic; this need for excitement, but also this ability to forgive and forget endlessly. The final lines of the song are “I saw the worst of you,” and even as the woman screams insults at her love, he doesn’t wilt in his dedication. There are both positive and negative connotations to this. Relationships never progress perfectly, we can almost never fully express what we really want to say to each other, but at the same time, the overwhelming feeling of love can persist through even the most difficult of situations – as long as you are willing to take the risk it requires. And that risk is consistently drowning in the pool of innocence, rather than embracing the often-painful realities of your feelings.

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