Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lana Del Rey vs Edward Hopper

This is a very special short film: I brought together for the first time the universe of Edward Hopper with the moodiness evoked by Lana Del Rey's Video games song. I cannot recall which one triggered the second, whether one of Hopper's paintings suddenly felt like the perfect imagery for Video games, or if Lana's song, which had an almost hypnotic effect on me, revealed a connection with the American painter. In any case, this short film was not meant to be an ordinary, boring slide-show with some music slapped on it. Or so I hoped :-)

A warning first, there are some spoilers in the following explanations, so have a look at the video first if you want to have a fresh eye on it.

I saw many of Hopper's paintings in Düsseldorf and in London over the years, and without a doubt, the characters in his universe expressed a feeling of loneliness, they seemed lost in their thoughts as well; in the case of couples, a certain disconnection could be inferred. To me, there was a dimension of alienation from oneself, and from one's environment: not only the characters were lost in themselves/out of themselves, but also the surrounding places created a space wherein the people were excluded. This was the link to LDR's song: her music was gripping from the start, taking me into a state of nostalgia and longing, into a mood similar the one in the paintings. 

The song oscillated into two worlds: the wished-for reality and the actual, harsh, one-way love affair she clings to, alienating her own personality in the process. Although there were ambiguities in the meaning of some parts of the song, the short film kept focussed on one simple storyline, trying to address the mood rather than sticking stricto sensu to the lyrics.

The first scene was the only one presented from the man's perspective: the song's introduction was rather short and ominous (minor mode, bells), so I decided to show the man in his "fast car", driving to meet Lana's character, driving her destiny as if she were a toy to him. The first painting introduced was the gas station: I used a trick to make a fake 3D effect on it to add relief and life to it; didn't we all wish to walk "inside" a picture at some point? I applied this effect to most of the paintings in the short film.

The next scene had to show the lighthouse hill. Most of the action took place at night in the short film, so I changed the original painting colors to a darker tone as you can see here to give a dawn-like impression:

She was waiting for him (getting the beers and herself ready), and almost as soon as he arrived they got inside the house into her bedroom, which happens on cue when "video games" was sung. 
Again, I modified the painting to help for continuity by adding one of her shoes in sight, and setting the scene at night. On cue with "the world was built for two", the woman was progressively set aside the decor to highlight her loneliness, and her frailty (naked), in contrast with the lyrics.

They talked for a short while after that, on the patio, and he left as fast as he came. When she said "... loving you", he disappeared! The song continued: on the keyword "stars", some stars of the night sky shone. The scene was slowly panned to the left then transitioned on the image of windows to suggest a potential escape from the situation, but she found herself in another room, alone, contemplating "outside", i.e. interval moments when he was not around. Again, the painting was touched up to ensure the character was perceived as the same woman:

Finally, the last painting shown was the sunny empty room: she, her real personality, was absent from that scene altogether, her life hence deserted. The room went into space, where she did not have much to hang on to, where air was rarefied: and so she fell in the silent void, watching the empty remains of her relationship vanish in the far horizon.

Fans over the internet have hinted that maybe the "video games" referred to  in the song had more to do with blue movies. I went along with this interpretation because it felt in line with the mood of the 60s exploitation films; it also accentuated the level of alienation that the singer evoked, maybe she became fixated on what the "bad girls" could do, and that she could not, despite her love/infatuation for him? That's why there is a super 8 camera in the background of the end title.