Jennifer Grassman: The Doors A Slashed Wrist Will Open
Jennifer Grassman has a voice like an angel. This is not meant as a compliment. "Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell," someone said. It might've been Shakespeare, or it might have been Kain.
The point is that the voice of an angel is an agent of the Word, and though sometimes the Word is Salvation, Love, or Comfort, other times it is Death, Pain and Loss. The video for Grassman's song "Bedroom Door," directed her sister Kaitlin, speaks in a voice of incomprehensible sorrow echoing infinitely in all linearities from her sepia-toned point of origin.
The song itself deals with a girl contemplating suicide, though from out perspective it certainly seems that the time for contemplation has long since passed. Jennifer's highly symbolic lyrics draw parallels to the dew dripping from the windowsill and what is likely the blood of a slashed wrist running down her heroine's arm.
Clutched in her subject Michaella Grassman's hand throughout the course of the video is an old-fashioned iron key. Keys are one of the most powerful symbolisms in dream interpretation, most obviously as a means of escape.
However, the loss of a key, as Michaella does in the closing minutes of her sister's song, is one of the worst possible omens. It implies a loss of hope, and certainly indicates that no escape is possible. All that is left is whether or not this means that Michaella has locked herself in the still cold of death, or in the harsh world that has beaten her down.
"For me personally, the key represents a means of escape," says Jennifer. "Keys open gateways, unclasp handcuffs, and unlock cage doors. In this way, the girl views her weapon of choice - whatever it is in her hand - as a means of escaping what she perceives to be an unbearable life.
"The weapon becomes her key to freedom - freedom from life being, of course, death," she continues. "And yet the girl worries, 'What will freedom leave behind me?' How will my actions impact my family, my friends, and this world? Death may be the easy way out, but is it right?"
Jennifer hovers ghost-like over Michaella throughout the video, pausing occasionally for brief performance pieces. Kaitlin's cinematography baptizes the scene in a rush of rusted colors invoking the desperation of the Dust Bowl.
Just as the song opens with the line "The rain has come to Texas again," so does Kaitlin take careful count of each shot making sure to bring the oppressiveness of an angry sky to glare down on her sisters, both the singing and the suffering. There's a futility about the scene that captures the inevitably of pain and death, themes that echo throughout the song.
If there is any flaw to "Bedroom Door," it's that it falls into a trap that many videos have by letting the length of the song dictate the length of the picture show. Music videos are their own form of art, with their own pacing that may or may not match the beats of the song for which they serve as another facet of presentation.
"Bedroom Door" is a fairly static work, Kaitlin tends to rely on beautiful but still shots that linger just slightly too long. Broken down to its technical components, it's just a girl lying in bed while another girl sings, and some trimming similar to Tori Amos's "Crucify" video might have benefited the pacing of the video.
This is really a minor complaint. Call it the cracked frame of a beautiful photograph. The video is a masterpiece of mood that aims straight at the heart in a way that hasn't been seen since Depeche Mode broke all our hearts with "Blasphemous Rumours." The Grassman Sisters' similar sentiments are given the Texas trappings of pine for the coffin and ropes for the handles.
"When I first heard the track I don't know that any really clear image came to my mind," offers Kaitlin. "I think it was more of a sobering emotion that was gradually built up with little snapshots of what the song reminded me of; it feels like a rainy day, it feels like an old black-and-white movie, it feels like a quiet house."
Another outing by Jennifer and Kaitlin is in process, supposedly with much higher production values. Kaitlin is a film student, and is working on the final version of Jennifer's song "Haunting" due out this summer. If "Bedroom Door" is anything to go by, whatever comes next will certainly be the work of two artists that bear close watching.
Jennifer Grassman's Serpent Tales and Nightingales is available at her Web site.