‘Delivering endless cinematic juxtapositions, it beautifully challenges our perception of reality.’
When was the last time you felt like you were actually living in reality? The chances are you’ll think it’s more than it actually is. To be fair, with our real lives being filled with distractions anyway, it’s no wonder that soon as we head online even more appear. Then, as we head deeper into the online abyss, those lines between what’s happening in real life, what’s being distorted, and what’s in our imagination begin to blur. Unsettling isn’t it? However, embrace this scenario, utilise it as a stimulus, and place it alongside a release that makes you live in the moment and escape reality, and you get close to what the video for London-based S.A.A.R.A’s EDM single ‘Forest’ achieves.
Instantly hitting us with the phenomenal production quality that is to be experienced, the opening visual sequence is one that entices us just as much as the groove that underpins it. Transitioning seamlessly through soft-focus branches, multiple exposures, and the introduction of key characters, there is a setting out of the atmosphere, the cinematic style, and the storyline. Even more cleverly though, these also directly link with the blurring of reality that lies at the heart of what we are hearing.
This, as you can guess is no fluke, as while this may be S.A.A.R.A’s debut music video – something that you will find yourself constantly forgetting – this connection between auditory and visual elements was always going to be there. ‘Visually, I wanted to capture the essence of the track and reflect how layered the composition is, as well as the theme of existing somewhere between a dream and reality. We wanted to create scenes that had a slight twist on reality, injecting a dream-like quality with elements of magic, mystery, and hyperreality, as well as using colour, light and shade, projection, and optical illusions.’
For some, this extensive set of components may in fact seem excessive. And on paper, it is. However, throughout the visuals, each and every one of these boxes is ticked in a beyond stylish manner.
‘I was keen to work with a female director as I want to do what I can to address gender imbalance in the music industry.’
Using the first half of the video to highlight just how seamlessly all this can be combined, apartment centred shots of a vibrant looking S.A.A.R.A blend with deeper tones found in shots of actor Eric Cole exploring lamplit streets of London and hazy woodland. In principle, these are as contrasting as you could get. But, in nodding to the topic of the track, and referring to both characters within the occurring lyricism – ‘I’m awake, and you’re asleep’ – you immediately develop a full appreciation of what you are experiencing.
Creating a perfect juxtaposition, visual clarity for internal locations and cinematic softness for external ones enhances the uncertainty between dream and reality, while the emphasis on ‘things starting to transgress into the imaginary and fantastical once both characters leave their apartment’ add additional layers to the storyline. Something which both S.A.A.R.A and her team were very keen to deliver.
‘I love how mysterious the relationship between them is. They never quite exist in the same moment but they have this awareness of each other. Who is real? Who is the dream? Who is imagining whom? Like any good mystery, we want to leave it open for the viewer to interpret.’ Rather appropriately, while we can never be certain of what their connection is, the processing of this thematic device means you can be certain that your brain will be creating its own stories.
‘I really wanted to work with Emily Seale Jones for this project,’ says S.A.A.R.A, ‘She is an incredible filmmaker and did a phenomenal job of creating the narrative through layering up the shots and leading the audience to ask who and what is real. Although the two characters appear to be in the same space at the same time, they are never together in a frame. It was incredibly important to blur these elements as we wanted to move the viewer from the familiar to something completely hyperreal, so their only interaction on screen together is through shots containing flashes of awareness being layered.’
While it’s true that these shots very much enhance the story within the track, choosing ones that are so incredibly effective truly generates that overlap of what’s real and what isn’t. Enhancing this at every opportunity, as S.A.A.R.A’s persona alternates between chilled out, serious, and mesmeric, sequin-chain adorned expressive dancer, Erik’s visibly growing confusion about whether he’s seen her performing in the streets of Hackney, among the trees of Epping Forest, or neither forms its own connection with us.
It is, in short, a combination that makes for a completely glorious experience, and one made even more visually appealing by the input from others involved.
‘Thank you to everyone that’s been involved and supported the release, we’re already planning some more exciting things so stay tuned!’
‘I had total trust in everyone and it was so freeing to sign the project off to Emily.’ says S.A.A.R.A, ‘She knew precisely how to get the results we were aiming for, and assembled a dream team of James Chegwyn (DOP), Eric Cole (Actor), Rebecca Crang (Hair & Makeup), Alicia Louise (Art Director), and Nabiséré Nicole Walugembe (Stylist). Beforehand, we talked about the aesthetics, what we wanted to achieve, and the film noir via Kubrick feel we were after. We were also keen to explore and experiment as we went along, using jump-off points from videos such as Peggy Gou’s ‘Starry Night’ and Pecho Mama’s ‘Back Against the Wall’. Sure we were already wanting to applaud the entire team, but to connect with those reference points in such a sophisticated manner is beyond belief.
Increasingly relating back to these areas of inspiration, the colour grading achieved by James is utterly delicious. Which, with S.A.A.R.A saying that he ‘worked his magic with lighting to get the hues needed, utilised the pre-sunset light of Epping Forest, and did some trickery with the street scenes and the apartment’ is little surprise. Likewise, the overlaying the pre-recorded forest-centered footage across S.A.A.R.A in her apartment takes the thematic blurring to the max.
As this wasn’t enough though, in S.A.A.R.A’s movement evolving in a way not dissimilar to the Peggy Gou jump-off point, and the dreamy kaleidoscopic effects linking back to Pecho Mama, your mind can reach only one, entirely real conclusion: That, just like the release itself, every element of ‘Forest’ is completely cohesive, perfectly polished, and stunningly spellbinding.
Thanks S.A.A.R.A for chatting with Listen to Discover