Monday, December 04, 2006

All Lost in the Supermarket

Metric lead-singer and Broken Social Scene contributor Emily Haines leads yet another band, Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton, and for their "Doctor Blind" video the group enlists Jaron Albertin to create a haunting piece reflecting the songs frighteningly real themes.

VIDEO: "Doctor Blind" directed by Jaron Albertin

"the lonesome lows don't quite go away overnight"

The click of heels against the cold sterile floor can be heard over the dream-like music as Emily Haines makes her way through the blandest super-mart in the world.

The real-world sounds increase and the music subsides as she approaches the window of the pharmacy and rummages through her bag in preparation of a purchase. At this moment of hollow spending she is almost completely disconnected from the beauty and self-expression of life (i.e. the song).

Yet before she succumbs to the drugs once again, Haines slips into a hallucinatory nightmare about the pitfalls of our heavily medicated society. It's a strikingly terrifying concept - being alone at night in Wal-Mart. This feeling is heightened by the build-up, which starts with the slow-motion horror of the first beautiful shot: Haines fleeing mysterious bright lights in fear and panic. The camera focuses solely on the place from which Haines runs at first, placing our interest and fear in it, before revealing the rest of the dark scene (with the damp windshield implying that it has just rained).

She walks into the place pushing against a door that is noticeably marked with the familiar "do not enter" symbol on the reverse side. A sense of entrapment is imbued into this scene, as if she is walking into a place from which there is no exit. Then we notice Haines herself, looking beautifully singular amidst a sea of dull pastels. Her every move in her tight-fitting vintage shirt and bright blue purse is hypnotic and graceful (amplified by the clicking heels) contrasted with the faceless customers and rows upon rows of sameness.

Yet she also looks almost skeletal herself, a bored defeatedness looks out of the lazy make-up she wears - serving to further increase the creepy factor. The climax of this tension is when Haines sees a ghostly man appearing behind her on the screen of a security camera. She turns to face the horror, but as she shoves him away she realizes the full magnitude of this nightmarish environment. A queue of over-the-counter addicted humans, crumbling like dominoes under the effects of a sad sad world.

But it isn't just about those who have sought medicated-relief for their mental health; it's a far-reaching critique of a consumerist and capitalist culture that robs us of individuality and feeling. The toppling row of shoppers spirals into a cross-like intersection as Haines runs past. Many have called capitalism the fastest growing religion in the world, but director Albertin highlights the black hole at the heart of this ideology. The panning shots of the ceiling reveal cracks in the framework; Haines and Albertin show us the places where the wires are showing under the faux-sleek exterior of modern life (including a glancing jibe at the cookie-cutter elevator music that fills most of our shopping experiences).

That's not to say there isn't something almost alluring in falling in with the line, letting yourself cascade down and out of the troubles of your mind. The zombie-like collapse of each victim is somewhat peaceful in it’s quickness (the camera work brilliantly attempts to mimic the sensation of a drug-induced high), as if each soul is being put to rest amidst his or her purchasing dreams. Haines herself drops her bag at one point, almost completely hypnotized by the seeming comfort of this easy-fix that has sustained her and the others so many times before.

But she quickly rejects it, and it is in fact the forcefulness of her fear - a real pure emotion - that allows her to wake-up from the drudgery of her robotic addiction, and momentarily flee from this form of escapism. Upon securing her safety within the car, the rain has stopped and she takes a deep breathe before reaching into her purse once more. It's possible that in order to deal with the hellish fantasy she has just gone through, she feels the need to now look for yet another quick-fix (perhaps a cigarette, or even more prescribed drugs). Or maybe she is just looking for her car keys - regardless it's clear that the solution to the problem of addiction is not something that happens "overnight." Instead what is plausible is slowly fighting the urge to succumb to the inauthentic lifestyle that these types of environments and drugs represent through the "highs" of music and real human feeling.

Buy it at Insound!

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