Music video sample answer


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Music video sample answer

  1. 1. 1. The music video is Johnny Cash’s 2002 cover of the Nine Inch Nails song: Hurt.Analyse the sequence commenting on:• Technical codes• visual codes[40]The music video for Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt’ is a very sombre and atmospheric piece of work which may beconsidered both an autobiographical look back at a long and varied career but also as making a commenton the nature of fame and idolatry in America. It is a video so emotional in its portrayal of Cash and hisfamily, that it must also be accepted that individuals will have their own personal reading of the text.From the very start the visuals are striking and symbolic, the opening shots of the two small statues and thebowl of fruit are ostentatious and might be linked to wealth and success, or even something valued andclassical. However the first shot of Cash surrounded by these antiques reveals him to be old and slow, wemay now consider the statues to represent his own paralysis, he is an artifact like them. More disturbingmight be the image of the fruit, a reminder that some things do not simply collect dust but which rot anddie.The themes of death and decay are emphasised by Cash’s traditional all black costume and the use of lowkey lighting, a combination of shadows and dim naturalistic lights bathe everything in a jaundiced yellow,nothing seems vibrant or alive, the light is that which we associate with dusk. We can assume this isrepresents the dusk of Cash’s career or even perhaps his life as two close ups in succession, one straighton, one in profile, reveal his face to be craggy and wrinkled a bald and aging silhouette finally lifts the pianolid after some hesitation - wondering whether it is still worth playing on.The use of camera throughout signifies this sad decline of the man, medium shots emphasise his frailgestures to the camera, big close ups highlight his broken expression and emotion as he stares past thecamera and in one sequence, begins to cry.The most effective of technical codes is the use of editing. This is used to both give the audience a narrativeof the man’s life told largely in flashback, and also to continue the binary opposition of vibrant youth vsdebilitating old age, through a series of juxtapositions.Many of the ‘flashback’ shots are old home videos - which portray Cash outdoors in the countryside,walking, smiling with his his children and wife. The handheld camera shakes and wobbles and positions theaudience as one of the family, giving the sequences added authenticity almost as if they were Cash’s ownmemories. In stark contrast, the footage of ‘present day’ Cash is static and are all interior shots furtherconnoting this paralysis.Despite this obvious retrospective look at his own career and fading health, particularly as this turned outto be Cash’s last significant piece of work before he died, the video may alternatively be considered to be acomment on the nature of the fame and idolisation that Cash lived with throughout his career.Many of these themes are explored through various visual codes that appear during the montage within thevideo that runs concurrently with the crescendo of the song. By the time this sequence arrives theaudience has already been shown various visual metaphors through the mise-en-scene. The sparse brokendown museum with broken records and dusty exhibits introduces the ideology that it is not materialpossessions that matter in life (particularly as these shots are often cross cut with images of Cash’s family).By the time the montage arrives we have also seen more shots of Cash in his ‘hey day’ performing to fansand on television, the museum itself another obvious signifier of fame and success, however a shot from afilm is inserted and dialogue interrupts the song: “You stay the hell away from me you hear?!” This breakwith the conventions of a music video stands out so much that an audience has no choice but to thinkabout what has been said. In the context of the video it seems like an obvious rejection of the fame and
  2. 2. hysteria that accompanies any successful performer. This shot is immediately followed by an extreme close-up of a piece of fruit covered in caviar - making the fruit look putrid and rotten, again the juxtaposition ofwealth with simplicity signifies how fame can taint purity.As the final montage increases in pace, it is impossible to ignore the religious images that become morefrequent. Many of them are close ups of representations of Christ some of him being nailed to the cross.These specific images from this part of the story of Christ may not be an attempt to compare Cash as aMessiah but more to connote his martyrdom to the public. That like Christ he was idolised by the massesand eventually gave his life for them. This represents the binary opposition of fame vs privacy and exploresthe ideology that once famous your fans ‘own’ you.These two readings of the text are just two possible explanations of the varied and polysemic nature of thistext - there are many other readings which may take into consideration Cash’s battle with drugs, his uniquepatriotism and his own religious beliefs. However one element that can never be escaped is that the imagesin the video combined with the performance of the song, will always provoke a deep and personalemotional response from an audience.