In his excellent Supergods, Grant Morrison describes donning an “ink-suit” and entering the fictional world of his characters. It’s not a novel concept (though his use of it in mainstream comics was) – authors have been writing themselves into their stories since the beginning. A favourite example is the unexpected appearance midway through Martin Amis’ Money of “writer Martin Amis” (at whose introduction, Kingsley Amis allegedly gave up reading his son’s book).
I’m a sucker for these kinds of metatextual shenanigans (which explains my love of Borges and At Swim Two Birds), but in making The Real the opposite has occurred. Instead of inserting ourselves into a fictional world, we are bringing fictional objects into the real world. We’ve made ‘for sale’ signs for the make-believe Werner Real Estate.
There’s also a wood-and-glass (re: physical)award for our protagonist.
It’s as if we’ve journeyed across the divide (over to what Alan Moore dubbed a “unified field theory of fiction”) and returned with trophies. Like Coleridge’s paradisiac flower, they are tangible proof the fictional world exists. What I love most is how innocuous they appear, left propped against a wall or bookshelf, an incursion or seeping of the fictional into the actual.
It’s a mighty power, and we are accordingly judicious – I presume repeatedly bringing forth such artefacts would rip the fragile veil between the fiction-reality continuum and threaten widespread leakages. Because Fringe.
The video for Cracked Actor’s absurdly catchy Lemon On Your Lover dropped on Friday.
Nick came up with the amazing concept and script, and we shot it at my house/space station.
In the mix of banal and intimate moments between a couple, there’s a distinct voyeuristic aspect to the film. It’s accentuated by the zooming, the camera constantly pushing in, trying to get close enough to taste skin. It feels like an imagined Soviet training video, beamed back to earth from a possible future. I don’t know what Nick’s conception of the opening shots were, but I was immediately drawn to imitating the kitchen scenes from Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles.
Nick mentioned he was shooting a sci-fi video clip to someone, who replied, “oh, so with lots of CGI?”. No, this is more original series Star Trek than Into Darkness. Chris Cunningham was a reference Nick cited early (alongside Blade Runner, Gattaca and Demolition Man), but the retro-futuristic aesthetic happily came about as a result of our resources and limitations. If we had the budget, it might have looked closer to Oblivion. The suggestive costumes (created and designed by industrial designer Julia Johnson – I love my friends!) recall Star Wars’ stormtroopers by way of Vivienne Westwood. The tools and set dressing (also by Julia) look unlike anything I’ve seen on film – beautifully freaky and fetishistic. Nick’s script was a shot list of striking images that we could shoot on a budget (the blue water shower is a favourite of mine – in answer to some question I had on set, Nick said “anything that makes it look odder”. ). It’s opened my mind to what is possible – normally I focus on what can be achieved with whatever’s at hand (or readily borrowed), but a couple hundred dollars and a lot of imagination dramatically expands the options.
The editing was driven by the track’s relentless drum pattern. The reference I brought up at concept stage was Nicholas Roeg and his editing style, particularly his use of foreshadowing (is there a term for this – when a future/following scene is intercut with the current one – premonition editing?). His cuts have a jarring tendency to get under your skin and I wanted ours to have the same appeal.
Camcorder video (it’s the first time I’ve shot on something other than my DSLR) and its ultra-sharpness also adds an unsettling veneer – the sharpness is an aesthetic unto itself – the first clip that sprang to mind when I saw the playback was Let Forever Be. Not for any similarities in staging or content, but purely the crispness of the images – I was like, “oh, so that’s how Gondry got that look…”. It also allowed the frequent zooms, an attempt to create (what I am coining as) clinical psychedelia. The dutch panning suggests zero gravity, and conjures allusions in my mind to Barbarella’s infamous opening (while there is derobing later, I like the subversion of Marc doing something as domestic and mundane as cleaning while the camera plays havoc with the spatial framing).
In many ways, it’s a throwback to the unnerving aesthetic we attempted with the fledgling Babyfreeze videos, but fullblown and in glorious (techni)colour. This is the first thing we’ve shot with such a focused colour palette (the PROM video was actually shot subsequently), and I absolutely love it. The white (so much beautiful white!) and blue work in interesting ways. Rather than suggesting an endless white landscape outside the frame, the reverse is true – there’s a sense of claustrophobia, of constriction within the sets, that’s reflected in the tightness of the costumes, the finicky and deliberate cleaning and food preparation. Blue, typically denoting calm, is inverted here to suggest a cool eroticism (I planned to shoot the amorous scenes with red lighting as well and cut between the two, but it’s all the stronger without it).
Marc and Ali were beautiful, magnetic presences, and a pleasure to work with. We asked a lot of them, and they brought so much more. It couldn’t have worked without them, and I can’t thank them enough.
However, if you find the video too psychologically extreme, and/or you prefer your music stripped-back, might I suggest the following video of lead singer Sebastian Field performing the song from the back of my car.