A music video is essentially a short film, though we don’t usually think of them as such. We watch them a lot more regularly than theatrically-released shorts, and they’re even more popular than those novelty cute cats/babies videos on YouTube. Nine out of the top ten videos of all time on the site are music videos, with the exception of “Charlie Bit My Finger” (which has inspired some great short films of its own, watch here). So in the interest of getting more people to think about music videos as short films I’ll talk about a video Michael Fassbender did back in 2003.
The song is “Blind Pilots,” from English alternative rock group The Cooper Temple Clause’s second album. It’s mildly interesting lyrically, the ambivalent promise of a man trying to reform himself for the woman who has come along to “raise the bar,” presumably of his behavior. Yet while the words are a bit vague, the video is quite the opposite. It opens with Fassbender and his fiancée, who gives him a little bell necklace before sending him off with rowdy friends for his stag night. It turns out that the necklace is magical, and when he gives in to his urges he starts turning into a demonic satyr. It’s kind of crazy.
As far as story goes, it’s a pretty simple idea; this isn’t a conceptual video by Lady Gaga. There’s not much it adds thematically to the “fiancé behaves badly, is punished” motif. However, the short does a great job of mastering the fantastical vibe that is so often used in great music videos. We see him grow hooves and sprout horns but that doesn’t seem to bother the women fawning over his increasingly hairy body (though I suppose they might just be distracted by Fassbender’s suddenly shirtless and impressive torso). It’s almost like a silent film in a way, with the music playing over the visuals and rendering everything else inaudible. The transformation seems fitting — if not natural — and fits perfectly into the atmosphere of this strange short.
It really works aesthetically, as well. Aside from half-naked Fassbender there’s also an appealing emphasis put into the art direction of the short, with the lighting getting illicitly hazier and the room turning underworld scarlet as the song plays on. The metamorphosis itself is also quite cool, starting with a misshapen foot and quickly jumping into full-on goat-man a minute later. Fassbender’s demonic face is also clearly inspired by “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” which concluded its final season that year. His forehead is extended and exaggerated, the eye sockets are made cavernous and the horns twirl around in that stylized but oddly compelling sort of way. It makes for quite the unexpected music video. Take a look: