Sunday, July 13, 2014

Music/Video Appreciation: "Elysium" - Bear's Den, filmed by James Marcus Haney

Brother, do you believe in an afterlife?  
Our souls'll both collide,  
In some great Elysium,    
Way up in the sky    
Free from our shackles, our chains, our mouths, our brains                          
We'll open all the gates                      
We will walk careless, straight into the light 
For this music video especially, both the audio and visual components intertwine to create something truly heart-rending.The lyrics capture the ephemerality of innocence, while the video conveys the fragility of life itself, following a group of real life college friends attending Seattle Pacific University tiptoeing the edge of their adolescence. Through a cinematic series of vignettes, Haney captures the raw carefreeness of these youth, who are, in fact, his younger brother's friends. They laugh, drink, love, smoke, dance, relishing in their remaining days of  college. In his own words to NPR:
"'Elysium' was one of those tracks that became very personal to me very quickly. It made me think about my younger brothers and their transition from kids to adulthood — how they are carving out their individuality and quickly leaving youth, innocence, and wide eyes behind. "Brother don't grow up.... /Just hope that age does not erase all that you've seen/Don't let bitterness become you/Your only hopes are within you." With the video, I wanted to capture elements of that transitional experience in my brother, Turner's, life. I wanted to film him and his real friends doing actual things that they normally do. I wanted to document the actions and emotions of people at this age — the highs, the lows, the noteworthy and the mundane. I wanted to get inside what it feels like to be a teenager today. On a personal level, I wanted to freeze the last remnants of youth still left in my brother — to record him in this tender, fleeting age of early college years."
Shortly after filming began, 4 students were shot, 1 killed, on campus by an armed janitor.
"I was staying on my brother's couch in his campus dorm room, living amongst sixty or so sophomore boys. The name of the slain student was not released, and no one knew when it would be. As hours passed by into night time, one student was still left unaccounted on my brother's floor, four rooms down from us. One of the dorm-mates decided to sleep in the hallway just outside the elevator to wait for the missing student, so that he would wake up when the missing student came home. Others followed suit until the entire dorm floor hallway was filled with mattresses and students unable to sleep, all waiting for the elevator door to open."
 Just before the triumphant bridge of fanfaring trumpets, the music video showed actual footage of students huddled around a TV in a dorm room, watching the news and learning of further tragic events:
"When the victim's name was released the next day, the fears were confirmed. Turner's friend and dorm-mate, Paul Lee, was dead. With the music video as a last priority, I was thankful just to be with my brother — to support him, to be near him. In his dorm room, he played the song 'Elysium' over and over. A few of the other kids played it a lot too, and sent it around. While in the midst of a dormitory full of very broken and lost students, I couldn't stop listening to the song either — it took on a whole new weight and meaning.  
That weekend, my brother and his friends wanted to finish the video, in honor of Paul. The end result is a video that depicts real friends, real teenagers, experiencing something far too real."
Rewatching the scene where everyone's gathered around the TV, I feel a heavy somberness settle in the pit of my stomach. I can't quite put it into words (I can't quite put anything into words), but, art imitating life? Life imitating art? The boundaries blurred for me, and even after my 30something-th time watching the video, I'm left with a mixture of melancholy, hope, and a whole lot of human vulnerability, feelings so sharply triggered by the masterfully captured minutiae that unexpectedly shook me by the shoulders on a strangely poignant level.

No comments: