Director: Hannah Oehry
Cast: Tizian Kühne, Elise Kühne
Running time: 5mins
On the one hand, it’s hard to fault director Hannah Oehry for delivering such a distinctly middle-of-the-road music video. The song around which her short film is built – NoSpace’s More Than You Know – hardly inspires great flights of imagination throughout its middling four-minute run-time. A jangling guitar-riff is hung loosely over non-distinct lyrics about juvenile heartbreak, delivered by NoSpace’s lead singer with all the discernibility of Vic Reeve’s club singer impersonation. The chaotic spectacle only pauses for a chorus so uninspired it could have been written by Ruby-era Nick Hodgson.
Be that as it may, it does not give mean the video to accompany the song’s release had to be as anaemic as the tune itself. On the face of it, the film tells the story of a young man played by Tizian Kühne – presumably the Swiss band’s frontman – besotted by a stranger at a bar. He is supposed to be performing with the rest of his band, but leaves them standing bemused and motionless for what may as well be hours.
Sipping lifeless flutes of apple juice, and lighting a cigarette for the woman (Elise Kühne, who you have to hope shares the surname because the pair are really married), he loses track of time before her unblinking stare. But when he finally dares ask her for something – whether that is for her number, a dance, or to head home, Kühne’s mime-work leaves a lot to be desired – she throws glitter in his eyes and vanishes. Finally exiting their hibernatory blackouts, the rest of the band arrive to pick up the spirits of their leader, who is now laying bereft on the shimmering floor.
I must concede, with my own adolescent heartbreaks now more than half-a-lifetime behind me, this video is not for me. Telling this kind of story – even over this kind of music – could certainly appeal to some people who are at the right set of crossroads in their own lives. To that end, some of the well-framed shots of lingering eye-contact, and blue-lit melancholia of the later scenes will still go down a treat. But will it manage to live long in the memory of such a viewer, when it offers so little in the way of entertainment? Perhaps I am out of touch, but I find that prospect remote.
Most problematically, the film takes itself seriously to a fault – meaning that opportunities for a little levity are unanimously overlooked. I learned afterwards that rather than taking place at a high school’s end-of-term disco, the rather drab setting was meant to be a 1960s Hollywood bar – one of fame, glamour, and martinis. But on a $600 budget, filming in a Swiss community centre complete with chalk-boards written in German, delivering such a distinctly American period venue is, frankly, unrealistic. If you are determined to do it anyway, and want to endear an audience to the project, it is advisable to ham it up at least a little. Deliver them a couple of pantomime winks, letting them know you’re in on the jokes the visual disconnect is going to set up.
When Kühne abandons the rest of the band, there was a chance to push them for more dramatic reaction shots – close-ups of eyes rolling back in their shaking heads could have pantomimed us a context that would help round out their lead’s character, and the story as a whole. Maybe he is just a hopeless romantic who this keeps on happening to, to the frustration of his bandmates? At the same time, as time ticks on and he doesn’t return, the possibility was there to play this up, with the players so used to his antics that they have brought alternative entertainment. They could be playing darts, building a house of cards, painting a landscape, anything. Even if filmmakers do not favour the more absurd or intricate distractions that I do, it is always worth finding your cast something to do, rather than standing dead-eyed behind the main event, like comatose doormen.
With all that being said, it is hard to know where exactly to attribute blame for the way a music video turns out. I have noted before that directors do not always have carte blanche when it comes to this kind of work, as bands often have their own ideas of the imagery to couple with their audio – for better or worse. This can leave young visual artists who are simply looking for experience with a quandary – how much ground should they be willing to cede, to simply get their name slapped on a final product, no matter how uninspired it might be?
If Oehry was posed such a conundrum during the production of More Than You Know, only she can say whether the trade off was worth it. Certainly, she has shown that she knows how to oversee a shoot, and craft together the clips from that process into a coherent – if unambitious – story. That may land her opportunities with producers who simply want a safe pair of hands to helm a project without rocking the boat. If she wanted prove herself for projects willing to take a few more risks, however, it might be argued that Oehry – like Raul Simao, working for the infamous Danny Pryp, before her – gave too much here, for far too little reward.
Even though the music video for More Than You Know is for a song which you will have forgotten by the time the final chord has faded into silence, it still manages to feel underwhelming. Simply by daring to be a little silly, Hannah Oehry could have elevated this into a much more memorable experience. This is a long way off being the worst music video we have reviewed on IFL – but it’s just as far from being the best.