"This video was borne from a dream I had a few months ago about teenagers in their own world, a world with hierarchies and initiations, where the boy who was second in command had acne on his face, and so did the girl who was Queen. I dreamt about this world being so different to anything anyone had ever seen, a dark world full of tropical plants and ruins and sweat. And of this world, I dreamt about tests that didn’t need to." -Lorde
It takes a lot to be able to tell a story in three minutes and twenty seconds. But there's something addictive about the way Lorde's music video to her song "Team" plays out before us. It's almost ironic, coming from an album named Pure Heroine, because it leaves you wanting more and more until you've found you've watched it a dozen times and you're not about to stop. It's a work of creative genius between Lorde, her producer Joel Little, and director Alex Takacs (under the moniker of Young Replicant).
It's like every time you hit replay, something new catches your eye. And slowly you descend into this world where teenagers run amok, free and wild. But to truly understand the beauty of this piece you have to be able to know how storytelling works. Simplistically, a good storyteller is able to put you into the middle of the action, keep you hooked, while providing just enough context for you to figure out what's going on but not to know everything. This type of storytelling is the best in my opinion, because it makes a viewer go from passive to proactive. It puts us in the protagonist's place and it submerges us completely until we don't really know where the lines between reality and fantasy blur.
And while I could go into great lengths as to what this music video did right in terms of filmmaking, there are three major areas that I want to hit: the characters/location, the color scheme, and the camera work. Obviously there's a lot more that goes into the production process but for now these are three things that stood out the most to me.
Characters essentially make or break a story. There have been plenty of films that lost their value due to bad casting, but "Team" sets up a fantastic array of people that match what we didn't know we wanted to expect. From the "protagonist" to the teenagers that idle around the decaying remains of an empty building, this world starts to unfold bit by bit, before us. Almost as if we were the ones with the bag around our heads, we're introduced to this world of different colored skins and clothing. It's realistic. It's essentially a world where teenagers have come together, despite their many physical and cultural differences. And it's eerily comforting. As you walk through the hallways you start to get a feel as to what this world accepts: anyone. From those with disabilities to those of different races, this world blends together in an almost friendly way. It leaves an almost angry itch in you, as your forced to walk away. You want to join in.
But there's something else about this place, that lurks between crumbling corners and hiding behind stained windowsills. It's not pretty, it doesn't pretend to be. Yet this doesn't seem to deter you as much as it seems to make it seem more elegant. A giant castle full of graffiti and chipping paint. It's certainly not the one you wanted to rule as a child, but oddly you're okay with that. It just seems to fit.
This place holds an almost magical feel, but in a dark and cynical way. This isn't Candy Kingdom, and its ruler certainly isn't a bubblegum princess. She rules from the shadows, and her dark colors seem to have stretched across her domain. If "shadow" could be filter that's what I'd say they used. Because even the moments you'd expect to be bright and saturated are diluted. This world takes on a drastic sort of muted look, one that matches its context. Although these people have come together, it's not a perfect society. It's sweaty and dirty, and it's not something free of order (however haphazard it seems to be).
Even as we sit there, watching those huddled amongst fauna to those watching the duel, we can't help ourselves. We want to be a part of this world for however long we could handle it. It's gritty in an outcast sort of way. Like, if we tried hard enough we too could fit in. And although we may not be able to physically accomplish this, we can experience it for a moment through the lens of the camera. As it tracks the progression of events, shaky on its feet, we are allowed to live through it. It creeps over shoulders and moves in close to the faces of those around us. It's as if it too were a character, watching from above: angling down to glimpse the newcomer from around broken corners. But it also slows down when catching the world around it. Watching those that make up its hierarchy climb among the abandoned ruins and chat in the skeleton of windows. It lets us into the wonder of this fantasy. It lets us be an unintentional character.
"Team," itself tells a unique story through its lyrics but it doesn't hit home as hard without the visual story of its music video. It sets up a world that's both whimsical as it is cynical: where teenagers run wild, reigned in by the rules of a leader that courts a mix of darkness and obscurity. For those three minutes and twenty seconds, we experienced years.