Steve Hogarth of Marillion and Richard Barbieri of Porcupine Tree are two incredibly prolific, daring artists who have teamed up on a new record called Not the Weapon But the Hand. Earlier this year, they released a music video for the song "Naked," whose stark sadness and theatrical grace is utterly captivating.
Directed by Christopher Kenworthy and starring the darkly fetching Molly Kerr, the video chronicles a shy girl who transforms herself from spectator into leading lady in a beautiful old theater. She discards her street clothes for an elegant ensemble more appropriate for a stage lesson, dancing under the lights alone to the sound of Hogarth and Barbieri's music.
"I'd spent six months working in a theater, watching actors go through dressing-room rituals that helped them find the characters they were attempting to play," says Kenworthy via e-mail. It was something I wanted to capture, because good actors can be utterly transformed by this process."
That process is undercut by the song's completely haunting atmosphere. It drives along with a pseudo-cabaret meter that harnesses the power of the stage, but in and out of all that the Marianne Faithfull-esque vocals, both rough as rape and smooth as silk sheets, weave a web of words that never lets the listener find a comfortable spot to hide.
Kerr plays that to the hilt. While lost in her dance, at times her presence on the stage registers near-orgasmically on her face, but she never loses the edge of fear for a second: Fear of discovery, fear of mockery, maybe even fear of living a life too afraid to ever really stand up and demand a place. She never seems to overcome that fear; she simply incorporates it into her own beauty.
"I see it as a self-realization for the character," said Kenworthy. "Only by embracing the darker, more theatrical side of herself is she able to settle into authenticity. In my head, the story goes that she uses this experience to get over her fear of performing badly, and goes on to perform well. And this is largely because she allows herself to be vulnerable."
Like the lyrics of the song itself, there's a voice in the back of all of our heads that whisper-screams, "Don't let them see you like this."
It's the herd instinct, the terrible trick of evolution that constantly encourages us to conform rather than expose and exist. Watching "Naked" in that context is almost unbearably powerful.
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