Tom Hingston has directed the video for David Bowie’s latest track, I’d Rather Be High. The four-minute film features more than 100 clips of archived wartime footage and typographic details throughout…
It’s the first music video Tom Hingston has directed and the fourth Bowie promo production company Black Dog Films has worked on this year. It has a strong anti-war message, says Hingston, and juxtaposes scenes of conflict and escapism.
The video opens with scenes of soldiers marching, their guns pointing skywards, before cutting to footage of young men and women dancing as words such as ‘gossip’ and ‘drink’ flash up on the screen. As the film progresses, cuts become quicker and these scenes of joy, interspersed with shots of Bowie singing, become almost dizzying. The men and women pictures are laughing, joking and dancing but their happiness is short-lived – in between, we see war planes flying overhead, men running into battle and in one scene, a young couple dancing in gas masks.
“We wanted it to feel like a found relic, discovered, as if from another time,” says Hingston. “In early conversations, Mr Bowie and I discussed exploring archival footage that brought to life another side of war – footage that featured soldiers celebrating; young servicemen and women, in moments of jubilation and euphoria – drinking, dancing and partying…these moments of total euphoria, juxtaposed with extreme violence, serve as a powerful reminder of the futility of war,” he explains.
Keen to pay tribute to those who shot the original footage, Hingston says the film is “a testament to all of those fearless cameramen who captured those moments…in my mind, this film is the work of over 100 filmmakers.”
Along with a team of researchers, he spent six weeks trawling the internet, film libraries and television archives to find material for the video. “It was a pretty extensive research period – we searched all sorts of archives to find some real gems, often watching 45-minute films to find just four or five perfect seconds,” he adds.
The quick edits, flashes and after effects are designed to create a sense of “cognitive dissonance,” says Hingston, where memories are present “but not wholly visible.”
“Constant flares and flashes, take the viewer into a place that is neither past, nor fully present – disoriented, yet hopefully compelled to understand more about the plight of those they are watching,” he adds.
The typographic detail references old newsreel footage, which often opened with a piece of type. “Rather than every line, we chose to reference a few key words – it helps to punctuate the visuals,” says Hingston.
It’s an impressive debut from Hingston and one that offers a compelling but troubling look at 20th century history.
Director: Tom Hingston
Producer: Jacob Swan Hyam
Exec producer: Svana Gisla
Production: Black Dog Films
Editors: Amanda James @ Final Cut And Owen Oppenheimer @ The Quarry
Production and clearing assistant: Stephanie Werrell-Smyth
Archive researchers: Sara Garcia Andersson, Matt Bowron, Jess Waterhouse
Grading/VFX: Markus Lehtonen & Yusuke Murakami @Tom Hingston Studio
Additional online: Electric Theatre Collective
Conform: Unit Post