Music videos that have a surreal style are those influenced by the surrealist movement. Surreal works of art, including music videos, are designed to be unnerving and illogical, containing the element of surprise and unexpected juxtapositions. They are meant to be expressions of the unconscious mind and therefore are filled with strange and dream like imagery.
Chris Cunningham is a director of many extremely strange and unsettling surrealist music videos. Some are like nightmares, more disturbing than many horror films and filled with weird imagery. His videos for Aphex Twin, most notably Come to Daddy and Rubber Johnny are filled with freakish characters. Come to Daddy features an old women in a grim urban landscape being terrorised by a group of little girl’s running riot on the estate. The little girls all have exactly the same grinning faces, that of an adult man (actually the face of Aphex Twin himself), creating a very disturbing and strange juxtaposition. The music is very hectic and industrial sounding and this helps to give a very unforgettable and unsettling vibe to the music video.
Less disturbing, but equally surreal, are the videos for Radiohead’s Street Spirit and Coldplay’s The Scientist. Street Spirit features a combination of slow motion and sped up footage (sometimes in the same shot) and all sorts of nonsensical and strangely placed imagery such as jumping nuns in a trailer park. It is all black and white and the song is very slow, adding to the surreal and dream like status of the video. It was made by Jonathan Glazer, the director behind the brilliant horses in the surf Guiness advert. There are similarities in the way the music video and advert are shot, showing a clear link between the two mediums.
Coldplay’s The Scientist is less surreal perhaps and more linear in its storytelling though the the narrative is told completely backwards. The footage has been reversed leading to much that is strange and unexpected. The most surreal juxtapostition though is that lead singer Chris Martin appears to lip sync the song even though the footage is in reverse. He had to learn to lip sync the song backwards in order to achieve this.
Surreal videos, if done well, will last long in the memory of viewers and can perfectly suit certain types of music. The sad music of Radiohead and Coldplay is fitting in creating a dream like atmosphere while the harsher more hectic sounds of Aphex Twin make the perfect soundtrack to a nightmare.
What are your favourite surrealist music videos?