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old-coupleI love music videos. I miss their pre-internet glory days on MTV, where there would be an anticipation for their release. The only way to see them was on an actual TV; there was no instantly pulling them up on your laptop or phone. No pausing, no rewinding or fast-forwarding. Well, I guess you could have taped them on your VHS, but you know what I mean.

Yes, they still make music videos today, but IT’S NOT THE SAME (GET OFF MY LAWN).

The videos that I have always liked best are those that tell a story. Sometimes they correlate very well with the lyrics of the song, sometimes they don’t at all. It’s up to you to determine the meaning. Meaning may vary from person to person. THAT’S ART, YOU GUYS.

I absolutely love the video for “Lover of the Light” from Mumford and Sons. Maybe it’s because it stars Idris Elba (who also wrote and directed the video) and I have a mild crush on him. The video is beautiful. But I was having a hard time understanding what was going on. Who is this guy? What’s his story? I wasn’t sure, but I had this gut feeling about the story. I watched it with a couple friends and they each had very different ideas than mine about what was going on.

So I decided it would be fun to ask a few other of my co-bloggers here for their opinions. Here they are, and then, what the video “actually” means, per Idris Elba himself.

But first, the video:

My gut reaction was that this man had suffered a loss. He wakes up heavy-hearted. He prepares breakfast and sets the table for two. I’m thinking his wife has just died. He tries to continue on normally, talking to her over breakfast as usual. His face drops and he looks defeated for a moment, knowing it’s just not the same. She’s gone and he’s alone.

He gets dressed in a suit, more formal clothing than what his environment would normally call for. Is today his wife’s funeral? As he leaves the house, he stops in his tracks as he touches the dog leash and some sort of stick on the coat rack. This is clearly some sort of pivotal moment in the video. He holds the stick and considers it heavily. What is that? A riding crop for a horse? Was it his wife’s? Was that her passion? Horse riding in this lush, green countryside? And here he is now, on the way to her funeral, realizing he’ll never see her again riding her horse?

He’s overcome with emotion and despair, bordering on temporary madness. He runs out of his house, through the forest. In the woods he has a powerful encounter with a stag. Does he feel like his wife has come back to him in stag-form? Does the stag represent life? That we all live and die, as is Nature’s way? He is overcome and runs. Runs straight to the edge of a cliff. At the last second, he stops himself from running off to his death. He’s overcome with new emotions this time, ones of the fragility of life, gratitude and hope.

That’s what I took from the video. Michelle in LA thought along the same lines as I did:

“OK, so my initial reaction and interpretation is two different thoughts.

1. What the fuck, I have no idea.

2. It feels like loss to me, that everything around him and everything he touches reminds him of someone he lost. That he struggles to hold onto the feel of that person in his life, he seeks it out and goes crazy in some moments trying not to let go or forget.”

I found this interesting perspective on the blog SoManyMP3s.com:

“So what did the video means to us? Well, the man got in contact with his spirit animal, and suddenly realized his stupid life of excess was just a joke. He may have had ‘stuff’, but ultimately, he had nothing, and he woke from that dreaming knowing it. So he did what any smart deer would do in that situation. He shed his excess and ran for the cliff face, ready to fly off into oblivion and free himself from the chains that keep him stuck to this Earth for all the wrong reasons. Granted, we see his animal self stop him in his mind by digging its hooves into the dirt right before the cliff, but still, we all know what was said and done, without us having to see it said and done. For one blinding, brilliant moment, as he free fell down the face of the cliff and into the ocean, he was free. Free from the bullshit, the bills, and the bitches. Freed from a world that clearly has no place being our world. And in that second, we were jealous of him. Honestly.

The song is lovely and empowering, and the video will make you want to tear off your suit and dash for a cliff like a deer with rabies. And you know what? Jump. If that is what your heart wants, just jump. Would you rather be chained to a dead world that you can’t relate to, or for just one second, would you like to actually feel free and happy.”

Katie in Boston sent her thoughts:

“As I started watching the video, my husband came into the room. Here’s my actual experience watching. He said, “Oh, The Wire!” I said, “No, Idris Elba.” He said, disappointed, “Oh.” Then we watched for a few minutes and I explained the concept of the blog post. I said, about minute 3:30, “So far, all I’ve got is he’s blind, and there’s a horse.” He said, “I think that’s a deer.” I said, “Oh, yeah, okay, a deer.” He said, “You’re blind.” It should be noted I was even wearing my glasses. So I guess what I’m saying is that perhaps I’m too tired to be very observant, but my tired and off-the-cuff interpretation is that Idris Elba’s character is learning how to be blind, how to be accepting of his blindness and still go about his life. Maybe it’s not even literal blindness, but just an inability to see and accept the truth, whether about himself or his life. I’ll admit I really don’t know this song well so I don’t know if the lyrics suggest this is about two people, but for some reason I really felt this was about his relationship with himself, embracing something about himself and his abilities. And it seemed like, by the end, he was happy and he had done it, taken the risk or overcome whatever he was trying to overcome. I still haven’t decided what I think of the deer, unless there’s some man v. nature aspect to the whole thing…”

What? He’s blind?? I never realized that! I watched the video again. Of course he was blind! How could I have not noticed that the first time? He takes the time to smell the coffee, taste the milk, his other senses heightened with the lack of sight.

This was apparently obvious to Erin, too, who sort of combined my idea with Katie’s, and added a touch of the supernatural for spice:

“So I think this guy’s family was taken from him, thus why he wakes up alone. A man who looks like that otherwise never wakes up alone, if you get my drift. Clearly he’s blind, but he sees things the rest of us with physical sight never see — like the beauty of tactile objects. He loves his dog, which makes me love him even more. The twist, of course, is that (SPOILER ALERT) he’s dead and doesn’t know it. Why? The car almost runs him down without slowing (BECAUSE HE’S A GHOST) and the deer in the woods doesn’t run away from him (BECAUSE HE’S A GHOST). It’s not clear from the video whether he realizes this. We’ll have to wait until his wedding ring falls off ominously and Bruce Willis appears. I hope there’s a sequel. Speaking of weird band names and twists in movies, have you ever seen Mumford? It’s really good.”

After everyone sent their interpretations, I looked online for what the artists’ original meaning may have been.

Per Rolling Stone: “The video follows Elba’s character, a blind man, through his rigid morning routine, which he disrupts suddenly when he leaves his walking stick on a coat hanger and bounds out into the world on his own. Elba’s four senses take him on a wild journey through fields and woods and right towards the edge of a cliff – and set to Mumford & Sons’ stirring song, the video is as poignant and triumphant as you’d expect.”

Once I heard this perspective, I could not unsee it. I could not watch the video with any other interpretation except for this one. And maybe that’s a bit of a loss in itself, as sometimes the true art within art is the journey the audience goes on to find its meaning. And that meaning might be heavily influenced on one’s own experiences. I’m guessing the writers of the SoManyMP3 blog are big into anti-materialism, and this view colors their perspective on everything around them. Perhaps Michelle and I have experienced loss in our lives that makes it recognizable to us in others, right or wrong. (Also, I can’t tell the difference between a horse’s riding crop and a blind man’s cane.) Perhaps Katie and her husband are just really big Wire fans and really in tune to Idris Elba’s creative brainwaves, despite having a hard time telling animals apart. And perhaps Erin is… a ghost. (Erin, are you a ghost?)

This, of course, can be a big metaphor for different issues in life. We all see the same issues (be it the Trayvon Martin case, Edward Snowden situation, Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” song), but we all often see them very, very differently. And that’s ok. That’s great, actually! The challenge is in the facilitation of all these viewpoints. Art is meant to provoke and challenge different ideas, each valid in its own way. I wonder how different the dialogue would be if we applied this to reality as well?

This was pretty fun.