Article Title
Article Title

All Together Now

by Brianne Mueller

 

 

The concept of a post-apocalyptic future is not entirely uncommon within the worlds of theatre, film, and literature. When artists traditionally tackle this idea, the outlook of the world is very grim. The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel turned feature film, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, is especially gripping for its very dark, yet realistic, view of the future.

Another gripping topic artists explore the concept of a world without adults, with the classic novel “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding as a quintessential literary example. Sometimes the two merge into one storyline, such as in the play Mercury Fur by Philip Ridley. The notorious show takes both concepts to their limits and illustrates total and complete collapse in morals and social structure in a post-apocalyptic future. In a refreshing and positively hopeful view on the two subjects, Icelandic band Sigur Rós and directors Arni & Kinski create an adult-free utopia in the music video for the single “Glósóli”, without a trace of doom or despair.

The child-like themes, on which the concept of the music video itself rests, are established within the title of the song itself. The word glósóli is Icelandic, meaning "glowing sole or sun," but in terms of Icelandic grammar it is seen as a childish way to say, “let the sun glow”. However, the specific treatment for the video is a direct allusion to a passage from the famous J.D. Salinger novel “The Catcher in the Rye” in which the protagonist, Holden Caufield, states:

I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff - I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all.

Consistent with Sigur Rós’s musical nature, the song itself is over 6 minutes long and pairs well with grandiose, episodic storylines in film. With this in consideration, the directors take the song’s meaning, “glowing sun,” and the passage above and merge them seamlessly into this stunning music video; which is closer to a short film than a traditional music video. It does not feature the band whatsoever and relies solely on a storyline in which children travel through a pre-adolescent utopia. At the very end, they all make a running jump off a gigantic cliff and fly into the sunset like Peter Pan and the Lost Boys.

The first thing that is established in the video is a sense of closeness to the main character, our leader in our journey. He is a young drummer boy, our very own Holden Caufield, who looks no older than around 13-years-old. The film begins with him looking into the water with his drum at his side. The intimacy of the shot and stillness of the camera immediately shows his importance.

His hair blows in the wind as he contemplates, a feature used promenantly in "Lord of the Flies". The camera follows him as he gets up and begins a journey through the rugged Icelandic landscape, in search of something. He stumbles upon two young girls, who are initially hidden, only to be drawn out by the beating of his drum. Without words, they smile and join the drummer boy on his journey. He picks up other children in ones and twos, many who are thankful and anxious to join his traveling tribe of youngsters.

The second established element is the sheer epic quality of their voyage. Mountains and fields are captured with wide panaromas of the landscape, revealing the incredible magnitude and beauty surrounding them while dwarfing their tiny bodies. The viewer sees just how small they are compared to their surroundings (literally and otherwise).

And yet, their mission is not entirely out of reach. Wide shots are balanced with character-establishing close-ups, as well as the illusion of added height, which is given through the dramatic angle of the camera from the ground, the lens facing upward towards the weary travelers. Also, the camera remains still while capturing action, which allows the movement of the piece to come from its characters, not the frame in which they are placed.

As the drummer boy accumulates children, they eventually come upon a sleeping boy around 9-years-old, also dressed as a drummer. The elder drummer shushes the masses and quietly lies next to him on the rock where he sleeps. The others quickly follow suit and lay down to sleep on the massive, mossy rock for the night. The camera pans across the rock to capture the sleeping children, it slowly and dreamily fades away to black.

The tone changes to a dream-like state as the video suddenly has a warm, yellowish hue once the children awake and continue on their journey the next day. This change in hue makes it unclear whether the viewer is seeing the continuation of a dream state or reality. Suddenly, the lines between the two are blurred and are only made more ambiguous by next series of events.

The traveling troop comes over the top of a large hill to discover a natural ramp in the mountain landscape that overlooks the ocean. They hesitate and look to elder drummer for guidance who also stands there, pondering. The percussion in the song intensifies and the boy begins drumming in rhythm, motivating his next move.

The percussive-heavy first half of the song gives way to its climax in which a full band enters, complete with blazing electric guitars. At this moment, the video’s Holden Caufield leads a charge towards the cliff’s edge, into the glowing sun. With several wide shots, the awesome panorama of the cliff is revealed, in addition to a dramatic and sharp 45-degree incline. Without hesitation, they jump into the sky and soar towards the sun, save for the younger drummer boy who is left at the edge of the cliff and watches his mates fly away.

After several moments, the young boy decides to makes a running leap cannonball-style into the air. However, unlike his friends, the viewer does not see if he makes it into the sky as the others did. This, combined with the shift in tone provided by the cinematic elements of the music video, creates even more ambiguity. The viewer is left wondering, did he make it? Or did he fall into the ocean (or worse)?

The uncertainty created in the viewer is intentional and allows imaginations to take over within the remaining seconds of the music video. The directors state that they do believe the boy flies off with his friends, however they left it ambiguous on purpose in order to let the viewer decide his fate. I imagine him soaring away, off to Never-Never Land, but that is up to you.

Despite my 1200+ words about its content, Sigur Rós’s music video for “Glósóli” is truly beyond words. If you didn’t watch it before reading this article, I suggest you do it now. I will close with a favorite poem of mine that this video brought to mind:

 

come to the edge
we can't. we will fall!
come to the edge
we can't, we are afraid!
come to the edge
and they came
and he pushed them
and they flew

 

~ Guillaume Apollinaire

Bri Mueller is a life-long music enthusiast with a recent passion for film. An aspiring music video director, she is a theatre arts major (Psychology minor) from Lawrence University, currently employed as a Marketing Coordinator. Bri enjoys gluten-free brownies, parenthetical phrases and rock 'n' roll. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of Daniele Teodoro. Contact Bri at bri.mueller[at]theinclusive.net.