Music Videos Reviews

Swine (2022) – 2 stars

Director: Maciej Pisarek

Running time: 4mins

Over the last 40 years, music videos have evolved to be more than just a clip of a band playing a song on a show they were unable to attend. They have become poetic, stylised micro-stories (usually) told without words. As such, they often serve as a proving ground for filmmakers looking to get their big break.

This year, Indy Film Library decided to celebrate that by showcasing a selection of independent music videos as part of our service. One of the first submissions to reach us in this new category is Swine – a song by Polish musician Anchey Nocon, with a music video directed by Maciej Pisarek.

Is Pisarek likely to go on to follow in the footsteps of David Fincher, Michel Gondry or Spike Jonze? That might be a stretch. For the most part, the clip fails to catch the ‘spark’ featured in Nocon’s lyrics, instead leaning heavily on a montage so timid and non-descript that it might as well have been lifted from a Uefa anti-racism campaign.

The song’s opening lines describe a spark landing on a tree, and the resultant fire reflecting on the lens of a human eye. This is the mythical moment in human history, where we learned we could harness the planet’s forces to reshape it in our own image – it is, for better or worse, the beginning of all that we have since become.

Pisarek’s imagery shows how this defining moment lives on in all of us with a blaze reflecting in a number of human eyes – including a baby. This suggests the spark represents some kind of unspoiled potential, and if we adhere to it, it can take us to incredible places (the last shot sees two united astronauts on some alien landscape) – but it does not go as far as offering anything critical about its previous impacts. There are no allusions to the brutality that conflict over resources led to, or to the environmental issues that spark might have led to once we got hold of it.

It only represents progress here. Or at least, the bland procession of smiling faces from every ethnicity, gender and religion suggests as much. The spark is implied to be the great unifying force of our species, an innate ingenuity which we should recognise and treasure as binding us together. The rest of the clip is a procession of dancing, smiling people, laughing, telling the camera silent secrets. Disparate groups are shown as being linked, everyone from the remote and forgotten elders of a mountain community, to the cancer patient staying strong in the heart of a modern health system.

The illusion cracks when the camera briefly focuses on a young woman dancing with a certain blue-and-yellow flag, though. Certainly, we might want to think that the spark unites us with her in some wholesome way – but if it is a universal trait, it also unifies her with the troops currently occupying and bombarding her home. That spark, that desire to reshape the world, is alive in them too. What this video needs is some representation of that duality, that plasticity of human nature.

The world is not divided between humans and monsters. It is divided between people who have the same needs and desires, but adhere to them in different ways. The spark is alive in both those who inflict tyranny and those who resist – but they allow that nature to manifest in different ways. It is not the spark itself that we ought to glorify in that case, but how some people choose to use it.

Examining the essence and potential of humanity without exploring any of the negatives in this day and age comes across as naïve, at best. The evils in the world will not be solved simply by acknowledging we are all human here. Because the video to the oddly named Swine fails to do this, its solution of simply ‘seeing the best in everyone’ is too aimless and inoffensive to have much impact at all.

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