Saturday, 3 September 2011

'Culture War'

School starts soon, so what better way to end the summer than with a film I made weeks ago, Culture War. You have no idea how hyped I've been about it, ever since I had the idea, and it's brilliant to finally get it online after so many failed attempts, and being as pleased with it as I am at the moment. Sure, it's not perfect - there were other bits I'd have liked to film, and some which I couldn't include - but the final outcome is best it could be with the amount of shooting I did. It's crazy to think the entire project - from conception to final edit - took me two weeks (it was the exporting and uploading that delayed its public release). This was one of those inspirations that I had to act on, and fast. Like Suspension.

So here's the video:

I understand the video doesn't explain some things, and that was half the point. I wasn't aiming to create something simple and boring like a commercial music video, rather something that explained less and left open the possibility for more.

It's set to the Arcade Fire song 'Culture War' from 'The Suburbs (Deluxe Version)', and I really wanted to use themes and concepts from both the song and its enclosing album, but the main problem with Culture War is that its name and many of its lyrics are centered on American culture and politics - 'culture war' is a term used to refer to the political friction between the north and south of America, the liberal and traditional values, or so Wikipedia tells me. The song also mentions 'the southern strategy', yet another lyric I can't include due to my location in England.

So I was forced to ignore some of the more political of the song's themes and concentrate on others, specifically the repeated 'We'll be soldiers for you, mommy and dad / in your culture war' lyrics. I focused on this theme of the sad corruption of kids, made to fight maybe not directly for their parents, but for the values and beliefs that their parents had forced upon them. It's a sense of world-weariness ('now the future's looking at me / like a vision from the past') and propaganda that would be better placed in 'Neon Bible' than 'The Suburbs' if it were not for that sound so distinctive of the latter album.

I feel I must say something here regarding the fight at the end of the video, the climax. It may seem unimaginative and immature to interpret 'Culture War' as being a physical, literal fight - obviously Arcade Fire intended for the 'war' to be metaphorical. However, considering that the song - like all the others on the album - is told from the perspective of an adult, and I only have teens to work with, I wanted to focus on the youths in question. And the best way, I thought, to show the corruption of these modern kids was to show them physically fighting each other. The film is intended to be enjoyable to watch, but I still wanted the fight to make for uneasy viewing. The discord between the violent, immediate imagery and the more wistful and saddened sound of the song were intentional.

Don't think I like making violent films - I don't. I'm no Tarantino, nor am I one of those teen filmmakers bent on making homages to Shaun of the Dead. I really didn't like the idea of such violence in my film, but I think - looking at the film as a whole - it is both justified and necessary. Having taken the lyrics literally, I now see why Spike Jonze made the 'Suburban War' mentioned in the album a literal war for his film Scenes from the Suburbs. Sometimes the most obvious imagery is the most effective.

'The Suburbs' has been a constant source of creative inspiration for me ever since its release, and I feel I owe it a lot - not only for being a work of art in itself, but for also opening my eyes to music as I'd never understood before. I've always wanted to make something Suburbs-related, and I think that with Culture War I've made my peace with the album. I've finally given something back.



Anonymous said...

A gang war between check-shirted white middle class kids? Interesting interpretation... Also, I would argue there is a definite north/south divide in England - plus Arcade Fire are Canadian, so there's really nothing to say the lyrics have to apply to American culture, surely? Still, well done for actually making a film, I envy you that.

John said...

tbh the only people I know are check-shirted white middle class kids, but The Suburbs is about the middle classes too, just American ones.

Win and Will Butler grew up in Texas so the childhood they are depicting in the album is an American one, I think. And I do agree with you about the similar north/south divide in England but I'm just not politically-minded enough to incorporate that.

abrickwall said...

I think it is also important to note however, that there was an asian in there for diversity and to be politically correct ;)

In all seriousness though, the film was really great, and while I do not feel qualified to post an interpretation of its meaning and significance, I really enjoyed it :)

Stickman said...

Wow, this is amazing! Maybe the best thing I've seen you do (Suspension is close though). As with any good piece of art, you can interpret as much or as little as you like.

Certainly it applies the term 'culture' differently, and to good effect. I would argue that although there are intrinsic differences between north and south in the UK, most of them do not represent 'cultural' disparities on the scale of those in the US.

NB the Southern strategy was a 70s/80s Republican party tactic of, in a nutshell, targeting the racist vote.