I was already familiar with the stunning work of Frankie Rose from her role in the Dum Dum Girls. Now she's out unsupervised with a solo album, Interstellar, and it more than lives up to her "other" project's excellence. I was sent along a promotional video for the song "Night Swim," and it's another one that proves that the art of the music video is alive and well.
This video, predictably, involves a night swim, but director Laurel Parmet makes sure that's the last mundane thing you can expect. The girl that plunges into the murky water isn't Rose, although the resemblance is uncanny enough that it doesn't hurt to picture her living out the embodiment of her own song.
While her trek starts out as an exhilarating jaunt through empty waters in a primal act, it quickly turns into something horrifying.
"The story is about a woman who goes out for a swim at night and is cornered by some unearthly, siren-like creatures," says Rose via e-mail. "By the end, against her will, the swimmer is turned into one of them. I think it's a little spooky. But I would rather have a scary music video than a corny one any day."
Spooky is right. The artistic implications of the piece are staggering, and you can dive deep for meaning and never hit bottom. Rose's wailing vocals continuously intone, "I know you said, 'Let me go.'"
So on the one hand she's looking at an escape, which is pretty typical with this sort of setup. On the other hand, what if our poor swimmer finally broke free of some protective force? What if she'd been screaming for freedom only to find out that she was restrained by a seatbelt, not shackles, because what is out there in the world, in the water, was hungry and waiting for her?
Assuming you're some kind of radioactive tridactyl, there's yet another hand to grasp for truth with. It's possible that the sirens represent nothing more than the futility of running away. This interpretation would most fit in with the haunted, repetitive nature of Rose's song. In a sense, it already sounds like the skipping record that is a ghost's existence.
"I think anyone can interpret it as they like," says Parmet. "To be honest, I felt that the swimmer turning into a siren/sea ghost at the end would make for a good story arc and would be visually interesting and fitting with the song. I didn't necessarily intend for it to have one specific meaning; it can be both literal and metaphorical. I think it's awesome when people come up with different interpretations."
Translation: I'm probably overthinking this.
Even without all the navel-gazing, there's a lot going on in such a simple piece. While it lacks the crisp lines and ballet-esque perfection of Rural Alberta Advantage's "Muscle Relaxants," there is some pretty impressive underwater work here that young filmmakers should take note of.
From the first time Rose played the song for Parmet, even before revealing the title, the director had her vision of dark scenes played out in the waves. The concept eventually evolved into a story at bottom of the ocean where anglerfish and other bioluminescent creatures dwell.
The link between "Night Swim" and the bizarre glow-in-the-dark sea life that populates the dark depths can mostly be seen in the strange glowing mouths of the sirens. Their smiles have all the warmth of a death ray, and make me think the creatures are kissing cousins to the vampires from Goldfrapp's "Alive."
"My amazing cinematographer, Dean Marcial, and I worked to create a look that was ominous and frightening, yet beautiful with bursts of brilliant color," says Parmet.
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"Night Swim" is a brief, beautiful, bitter little thing that stings you and leaves you to flail. Make sure you check it out below.