Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Truth is Out There, Is In Here


Regina Spektor's infectious "Fidelity" gets a splashy treatment from director Marc Webb, who uses colorful imagery to celebrate the ability of self-expression to overcome self-doubt...

VIDEO: "Fidelity" directed by Marc Webb

"I hear in my mind, all this music"

In the hands of Regina Spektor, "Fidelity" is a word that signifies something more than just faithfulness to one's partner. It is here a sense of duty towards one's heart, or more concretely, trusting your own feelings and emotions above all else. But at the same time she recognizes that, in the literal world, we often doubt whether or not our desires can ever be fulfilled when faced with so many difficulties. It is the mere possibility of in-fidelity that makes us fear even taking the first step into a commited relationship.

But as the video shows us, things in the real world are never as black and white as we are taught to think they are. Sitting in our homes dreaming of some perfect love, we are quite shocked to eventually find that things are never as smooth as fairy tales. And that first sense of failure, of a destruction of the ideal, makes us hesitate forever more. The opening shot of the video, with Spektor just barely attached to the ground, is a fantastic image. Since we watch so many relationships crumble around us, we "keep one foot on the ground" whenever we find ourselves falling for someone new.

There are a number of juxtapositions of one object against another, like the black and white motif of the room. Most telling is the framed outlines of a boy and a girl that sit upon a mantle against Spektor's wall. Once again this delves into issues of fidelity, and an ideal of one man and one girl. It's not to say that we are incapable of practicing fidelity, but that our preoccupation with a "pure" relationship (and the confining nature of a universal standard definition of love), makes each mistake seem catastrophic, rather than something to be overcome.

In many ways the myriad of "sounds," "voices" and even "music" that emit from our society further keep us trapped in our rabbit-holes. People are often defeated and skeptical of the ability to find any truth at all in life, let alone in another person. We hear so many songs about heartbreak and pain that we might start to believe that it's all there is. At best many of us think there are good and bad relationships, and thus this polarized sense of thinking means at every turn you are trying to judge which kind you are in.

This mistrust, or infidelity, is what keeps distance between people. Spektor has a model image in her mind of her lover, represented here by a mannequin, and speaks to it rather than actually communicating with her mate. It doesn't matter whether or not he's really in the room the whole time, because all she can see is this "model" she has created in her head. Her fear of pain or disappointment has led her to desperately hold onto these ideals ("just to break my own fall"), even if it means a distorted relationship.

As much as this is a doubting of the "fidelity" of the world outside and the people out there, it is rooted in self-doubt as well. In fact, Spektor recognizes that these "sounds" are heard in her mind, and thus on some level completely in her control. The fear that we won't be attractive enough, that our conversations won't stimulate enough or that we simply will fail in being a good lover leads us to fantasies of "wonderlands" rather than actually putting ourselves out there.

We see this doubt on Spektor's face and in her words; she tells us that "by protecting my heart truly/I got lost." In that sense she pinpoints the state of many people today, half-way out of there childish ideals yet still firmly searching for the perfect mate. There is so much to overcome in that sense, especially for a woman. The societal pressure of "destined" motherhood, the false ideal of virginity, and the constant emphasis on relationship status as the only signifier of value all press upon the thoughts of young women more than men. Yet despite all that, even to realize that none of that really matters, we still must face our inability to express ourselves.

Thus "music" becomes a way in which to finally open up completely. Whereas in the past it may have "broken" her heart to hear all that pain, now she uses it to literally break her heart wide open - to release her individuality completely. As color scatters across the bland room there is a jubilance that mirrors the happy-go-lucky tone of the wonderful chorus.

Yet we've heard that chorus before, and we have also watched Spektor in color (even when the room was black and white) from the opening shots. We've always seen and heard her individuality; even if she hasn't recognized it till the end. It's unclear why she needs to wear more make-up when she sees her own color bursting forth; the broken necklace and an actual vision of her lover seems like a grand enough statement of expression. Furthermore we might ask why, after that wonderful establishing shot of one foot tentatively touching the ground, that she doesn't float into the air at the end, a la Feist in "Mushaboom" (an artist to whom Spektor is often compared).

But perhaps there is a grand intention behind keeping both feet on the ground in the end (even if the excessive make-up seems to undercut it). Spektor no longer needs to float away in a dream once she realizes the beauty within her own heart and in the hand of her lover. The messy glory of the paint-splattering conclusion is starkly contrasted to the original clean two-toneness of the idealized room. The simple physical union that ends the video is representative of this grasping of strength within her humanity, within the mundane glory of her love. She doesn't have a prince in shining armor (nobody does), but she has her pretty great boyfriend. It's a nod toward fidelity - being true to one's self. And that's something worth singing about.

Buy it at Insound!


Rupa said...

I really like the music video...and your essay on it!

Anonymous said...

Wow.. that's the best description of "Fidelity" that I've seen yet.

gerald said...

great analysis!


Thomas Liam said...

dude, nice idea, but thats not at all what the video is about...its a philosophical idea called 'Jackson's Black and White Room' which says that you can know everything about a thing, in this case colour...but it doesn't MEAN anything until you experience the video draws a parallel between colour and love...i.e. you can hear the word 'love' banded about all the time but you don't KNOW what it means until you experience it

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