Pitchfork : Filmmaker Edouard Salier talks about his apocalyptic clip.
From Aphex Twin's "Windowlicker" to Busta Rhymes' "Fire It Up", great music videos are bursts of sound and vision that leave an indelible impression. Director's Cut is a Pitchfork News feature in which we chat with music video directors about their creations. The men and women behind the camera are often overlooked in today's YouTube era, but this feature aims to highlight their hard work while showcasing the best videos currently linking around the internet. A little behind-the-scenes dirt couldn't hurt, too.
For this edition, we spoke with French filmmaker Edouard Salier, who created the surreal, apocalyptic world found in Massive Attack's "Splitting the Atom" video. They don't come much bleaker than this black-and-white, computer animated clip, which shows a city waging war against what looks like a massive animal attacker. But this isn't some mindlessly violent romp-- Salier shrouds his images in shadows, making it unclear who's fighting what and why. And that ambiguity is key, as we learned in an e-mail interview with the director, who has shot videos for Air and Raphael Saddiq as well as short films and commercials, which you can watch at his website. Watch the video and read the interview below:
Pitchfork: Do you remember when you first heard Massive Attack?
Edouard Salier: I was 18, in Real de Catorce, Mexico with some friends. We just took some peyote and an Italian guy we met on the road came with [1995 single] "Karmacoma" going full blast. I remember being in the middle of the desert and a thunderstorm bursting over my head. As clichĂŠ as it sounds, it's true.
Pitchfork: Do you consider this video a political piece?
ES: I don't like the word "political"-- I would say this is a "committed" film. If you refer to it as a political piece, it could be assimilated into propaganda and that is not the point of the film. I make films for the purpose of provoking a reaction from the audience, but I don't intend to convince people of my views. I just want to lead the viewer in a world he never experienced before. I want to shake them out (with their unconscious and their guts). I want them to question themselves.
When I saw Guernica [the Picasso painting] for the first time at the Reina SofĂa Museum in Madrid, I was struck by something that was beyond myself, something I couldn't explain. It's also the way I felt when I saw Apocalypse Now, which is more than a movie on human madness-- it has a mystical dimension. This is what I'm interested in. "Splitting the Atom" could be about rebuilding a security-obsessed world that's unsteady and delirious on top of smoking and still-fragile ashes.
Pitchfork: What, exactly, is that huge animal at the end of the video?
ES: How strange, everybody's asking me this question. I don't like giving all the clues-- the fact that it can't be clearly seen is intentional. I want to disturb the audience and force them to interpret it. I want their unconscious to be invaded by something other than a marketed product. TV has already put our brains to sleep; reassuring scenarios with no creative perspective annoy me. And, sometimes, those can be dangerous.
Pitchfork: The video reminded me of a modern-day King Kong. Was that a reference for you?
ES: I saw King Kong once when I was about nine and it marked my childhood. I didn't want to see it again, I wanted to preserve the violence it provoked from me.
Pitchfork: In the unlikely event that a huge animal started ravaging your city, what would you do?
ES: I would prefer not to have this kind of beast in my city