Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Rising From the Underworld: Augie March "The Cold Acre"

Discovering the fruit of fruitless labor...

Augie March "The Cold Acre"

dir. by Nice Trees

The first sentence of Saul Bellow's The Adventures of Augie March begins with "I am an American." The writer was in fact Canadian-born, and the band which takes its name from his classic novel is actually a product of Australia. But Augie March, a group which has already earned both critical and popular success in their native land, now aim to conquer Bellow's adopted home with their brand of rock.

Before they can do that though, they must first push their rock to the top of the hill. The Sisyphean conceit of the video contrasts well with Bellow's fascination with the "American" ideal of self-reliance. While only one man begins this journey to the top, it will take a whole group to complete it. Yet when they finally do achieve the goal, the rock grows legs and runs back to the bottom - mirroring the same frustration of the Greek mythological figure. In his essay The Myth of Sisyphus, philosopher Albert Camus depicted this tale as symbolic of the absurdity of life.

Yet Camus was not condoning suicide or giving up, rather he saw the process of pushing the rock - no matter how many times repeated - as "enough to fill a man's heart." In fact the only way to be happy is to embrace the futility of your life and simply live it contently. The directors here have a similar idea, but the satisfaction of the absurd task is inseparable from the brotherhood and feeling of community that develops along the way. Whereas Sisyphus feels an ultimate moment of dejection upon seeing his boulder roll away, the character's in "The Cold Acre" have the comfort of each other to lessen the blow. Furthermore, they actually do get the rock to rest atop that hill for a moment.

Each character that decides to help this man is previously involved in his own solitary activity. From the silly poet to the absent-minded archer, every one is searching for some fulfilling activity. Their choice to help out is not about having some strange fascination with pushing large objects, but a need to work together towards a definable end. Whether or not this is also a metaphor for the creation of (rock) music, the actual work is irrelevant. The only way to escape the "cold acre" of your heart is to feel connected with the rest of humanity - united in pursuit of a common goal. At the end of the video the rock has gone away, and with it the unbearable burden of individual despair.


Augie March "One Crowded Hour"

dir. by Nice Trees


Dan said...

great analysis of a video that i've been pondering for sometime. in Australia Augie March have been called "the scholar's rock band" and you can see why, from song constuction through to video clip...keeps you thinking.

brendon said...

I always thought that this song and video may have a relation to the Myth of Sisyphus.

The rock, and the fruitless labor is a representation of the human condition-- Camus claimed that essentially we are fighting a battle we cannot win as the universe is indifferent to our wants/fears etc... but that should be no reason to give up altogether. I think that a life without meaning is a source of personal freedom, but also a source of personal anguish.

"A life without meaning can be lived all the better." -the Outsider.

Great blog and what a great song...

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