Earlier this year I discovered Steve Hogarth & Richard Barbieri's song "Naked," and that was a boon because it is an incredible tune that you should not hesitate to add to your iPod. More than that, I discovered a hauntingly beautiful music video starring a young Australian actress named Molly Kerr as a girl who overcomes stage fright in an amazing series of solitary interpretational dances. It was a riveting performance that made me want to start focusing on the players in music videos a bit more.
This week Kerr sent me her latest music video work, a song called "Help!" from the Olso-based electronica act Philco Fiction. I've pointed out time and time again that the best in modern pop music comes from Scandinavia, and Philco Fiction is more proof of that fact, but I was curious exactly how Kerr and director Christopher Kenworthy might channel the Nordic electropop through the filter of Down Under. The answer is very damned well.
The video follows Kerr as an explorer in the wilderness, made slightly unbelievable by her pale skin and the fact the she doesn't have a hair out of place, but just go with it. She's chasing a bird, doing her best to catch it or have it land on her arm. We see her relentlessly pursue the animal, ultimately resorting to some kind of magical light that she extracts from sticks she finds on the ground.
"In the clip they were used to try and attract or seduce the bird," says Kerr. "I hoped that by using pretty magic lights that my love would spend time with me and think I was worthy. A bit of 'peacocking,' I suppose! My character wanted to tame a wild love and ultimately trap it by misleading and distracting it."
The symbolism of chasing an unconquerable object of obsession is extremely prevalent throughout the video, with Kerr becoming more manic and desperate as the song progresses. It fits in perfectly with Turid Solberg's pixie-like voice and plaintive call to her "bird boy." Kerr stands in for Solberg's desire for a hero that never bothers to come, and you can see love turn to resentment and hatred as she fails to capture her quarry.
Filming "Help!" was an arduous, two-day task in the Perth winter involving hours of hiking through state parks and beaches to find the perfect locale. Rock climbing and running too their toll on the asthmatic Kerr, and Kenworthy himself was working through the last stages of Swine Flu.
In order to better capture the constant attention of hunting an actual bird, rather than the computer generated Kenworthy programmed in later, he would follow behind Kerr and randomly scream out, "BIRD!" at the top of his lungs causing her to jerk her head and look for it.
At one point, Kerr has clearly had enough of the chase, and with one more magical stick causes the birth to explode into a strange black cloud. Then she walks to the edge of the ocean and begins disrobing (Quite brave of her... winter, remember?) Through a series of bizarre, choppy shots she disappears and becomes a bird herself, leaving behind the idea of rescue from a lover and moving toward a future under her own control.
"I have often wanted to turn into a bird," said Kerr. "I love watching their wing beats and fantasizing about reproducing them with bits of cardboard tied onto my arms. I often dream of flying away from attackers by flapping my arms and levitating. There's a David Copperfield magic trick that Chris showed me that captures exactly what I do when I'm dreaming of flying."
"Help!" is an amazing video for a damn fine pop tune. It suffers slightly, like many videos do, of being slightly longer than it should be. Fond as I am of watching Kerr run and climb there is not quite enough action to pull off the whole of the length.
It's a minor complaint, though. Kenworthy has proved once again that he is capable of taking a woman's inner struggle for freedom and expression and turn it into a compelling interpretational masterpiece. Kerr herself remains a spellbinding study in the subtle art of music-video performance.
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In every gesture, in every glance of her eye, you can watch her go from timid to powerful, from prey to predator. She's an absolute treasure that will make you fall in love with Philco Fiction if you haven't had the good sense to do so already. Check it all out below.