Directed by Martin Michiels | Reviewed by Rohan Bhattacharya
For most of us, it is difficult to imagine a life away from the crowded city streets, away from the skyscrapers and shopping malls, and outside the concrete cage we happily call home. The simple things in life seem to have lost their charm under the radiance of a gold-plated watch, or a newly purchased car. When looking back down the corridors of time, one may wonder when was it that we had lost our freedom, and had willingly sold our souls to the tyrannical regime of Capitalism. Filmmakers have always found freedom in the idea of the ‘wild’ west; from Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western films, to modern Neo Western hits like James Mangold’s ‘Logan,’ all share this sense of freedom in them. It is this feeling that makes them more humane than other films that were made in their time. Martin Michiels’ music video titled, ‘Living in the West’ brings back that long-lost sense of openness, and transports us to a true western setting.
The music video has taken the form of a period drama. The yellow sky gazing down on arid Spanish grasslands, set designs that bring you back to the post-Civil War America, run-down buildings, the good old cowboy hat, and the way the characters interact with horses, props, and with one another have brought together a spectacularly accurate mise-en-scène, sending the viewers a hundred years back in time! Martin has turned the song into a story, giving an image to the words sung by the singer, stitching the scenes together with the slow-paced rhythm and mood of the music; he is able to make everything flow in harmony. The music video introduces the audience to the brutality of the outlaw world, while not overlooking the moments of joy in their lives. While watching the video, one can’t help but imagine themselves dancing, riding horses, bounty hunting, sharing food, and occasionally brawling with their outlaw family, living a lazy but not so boring life in the ‘wild’ west.
What is truly remarkable about the music video is Martin’s attention to detail with the choice of costume for the actors, the intricate set-designs, and the art-direction in the music video. The viewers can’t overlook the train drawn on the wall as the camera pans right from the main set. It is often said that the true value of a visually appealing design lies in simplicity. The filmmaker has quite splendidly given life to those words through the visuals in his music video.
Interestingly, the music video is shot entirely with a wide-angle lens. Despite the deep focus and lack of depth of field, the DOP was able to create a sense of depth through their composition. The foreground elements, the subjects, and the props in the background have all added depth to the shots, giving the music video a unique visual appeal. The use of wide-angle lens has helped the viewers connect to the locations, the sets and the entire environment of the music video. The camera pans are kept simple, and the compositions are far from complicated; this further adds on to the theme of simplicity that is dominant in both the song and the video. Furthermore, the editor has avoided the use of hard cuts, and has used nothing but dissolve. They have done a good job in maintaining the pacing of the video, and helping the visuals groove in with the melody and the vocal lines.
Despite everything that is good in the video, the film could have been even better with closeups and hard cuts to further focus on expressions and props held by the characters. Nevertheless, the director’s treatment, and his interpretation of the music deserves a lot of praise.
Rohan Bhattacharya is a video editor, filmmaker and writer. His film Komorebi won the second prize in ‘South Asia Japanese Language Short Film Competition,’ organized by The Japan Foundation, New Delhi and his latest film “Tsubaki” has been screened at the Tokyo Short Film Festival in Japan. His production house Sunkaku Productions makes movies in Japanese language to create a bridge of culture between India and Japan.