Kanye West’s ‘Paranoid’, Self-directed
“Plunge into the depths of darkness as Rihanna literally confronts her favorite worst nightmare”
Originality – 4.5
Cleverness – 4
Entertainment – 4
A mentally ill woman (played by Rihanna) falls into deep sleep. Her profound slumber propels her into a dark dream (nightmare) where she’s on the run from a wolf-like man (Kanye). However, lurking above the sky are cold, cryptic eyes watching over her like the eyes of God; those eyes belong to the beast himself.
She speeds down the nighttime highway with her engine on full blast ignoring the speed limits and whatnot up until the crash where she is abruptly forced to confront her boogeyman. Her body doesn’t go into fight or flight, rather, it undergoes a Freeze response and she’s quickly transported back into her dream state due to the horror.
First off, the music. There were added sounds to the video that weren’t offered to us in the original song. The reason for the differ is pretty clear though; the newly included sonics raised the tempo of the song in order for it to incorporate such a fast-paced video as the one presented. The original had a slightly slower tempo so the added layer of musical effects sort of sped it up for the video.
There’s the heavy use of contorted (and distorted) text which makes illustration a major theme- it compliments the video perfectly, interacts well with other elements and fits the video thematically. A sound use of illustration isn’t often the case in music videos, but it’s smoothly done here especially seeing as the text moves (vibrates) and is susceptible to the ‘old film’ black and white filter that fades darker ever so slightly.
On the theme of ‘old school’, Rihanna’s introduction in the credits was inspired by mid-20th century Hollywood film trailers – they used similar techniques to introduce big-name protagonists. The focus and detail on shadows in that scene (and in all) could also be an ode to French ‘Black Film’, what makes it original though is the fact that the shadows were alive and active within the video making it creepier and even more surreal. Is it a David Lynch film?
Rihanna transporting into her dream state by physically drifting away from reality is a new and smooth transition (and is meta.) Her weird symbolic (dance?) movements are either esoteric (making it powerful physical and visual communication) or just weird (reinforcing the mentally ill state of her character). I guess we’ll never know but either way, it’s on point and it adds to the adage of mysticism the video hinges on.
Driving through the woods engulfed highway at night has always been a great look, especially when in a video littered with themes of darkness, wolves, the moon et al. Having the car and land appear as an architectural model was simply brilliant.
Lastly, the maintenance of two videos concurrently playing at irregular intervals within the frame as well as mixing it up with hard-hitting Gothic text is brand new (as far as we know), it’s made only better seeing as they all interact with one another on-screen.
The use of light and dark was remarkably alluring and almost nostalgic of classical Hollywood films. The snippets (shortly cut scenes) also kept fading into darkness and the visual echo effect made the visuals appear more elusive.
The use of the moon evoking a Gothic (in the Romantic sense) horror atmosphere, especially with the theme of wolves and the eye of Ra made for an overall surreal and mysterious look maintained through the video.
Riding a toy car with a green screen behind is also reminiscent of classical Hollywood movies and is yet another cinematic aspect borrowed from vintage film. The isolation in the dream also adds to the horror as much as the morphing of Kanye’s eyes (and face) into that of a wolf.
Rihanna’s sublime (in the modern sense) looks accompanied by the jaring text and twisted trees was a stark contrast and the isolation of her in her dream added to the dread of the horror.
The original song was already of a great standard but the added sounds give it a totally different spin (and it’s no wonder, years later, Kanye makes TLOP, an ever-changing album).
Black and white isn’t so popular in contemporary music video making but there are a lot of great qualities in black and white film that are impossible to get in color. Kanye uses a classical style Black and White here as homage to older films and there are many elements borrowed from Hollywood’s film noir era (those films focused heavily on the mental state of the protagonist so it’s only right to use its themes here).
Rihanna was another great feature and her acting was top notch. As with all horror, the mixing of beauty with something terrifying makes it all the more entertaining.
Selon moi, the interaction between the illustration, videos, shadows et al made it all-round a well done piece of work. The video editing and production was great which makes us wonder how amazing it will look in 4K resolution.
And if that’s not going to drop, we should at least be given a consolation along the lines of a ‘Robocop’ release (for the culture).