Director: Solenn Barbosa-Dias
Cast: Therese Darmedru
Running time: 5mins
Indy Film Library’s key goal is to serve feedback to filmmakers – to help them hone their craft. The most important thing to remember when reviewing a music video is that we are reviewing the visual aspects of the production, rather than the music itself.
Sombre Soleil is a towering musical feat. Taken from French punk band Glabre’s 2023 album Cacochyme Rising, it takes its sweet time building a uniquely intimidating atmosphere. It layers ominous synthetic tones over cavernous organic hums – each complementing and building upon the howling lament of the band’s lead singer and songwriter Alex Jacobs.
In my opinion – everyone’s tastes vary – this may be the greatest piece of original music to have featured in an Indy Film Library review. But we aren’t here to discuss the music. Instead, I’m going talk about director Solenn Barbosa-Dias’ imagery, and whether it manages to match the song’s scale or intensity.
Initially the film’s cinematography shows a little promise. Amid the echoing electronic haze of the film’s opening chords, Barbosa-Dias’ black-and-white Super 8 picks out the darkened silhouette of a distant city, from the carriage of a passing train. And as Jacobs’ agonised roar rips through an opening salvo of his evocative, cyclical lyrics, a lone figure stands and observes the skeletal remains of an abandoned church – its abandoned tombstones poking out of overgrown plots, the jagged teeth of an unsuspecting predator, swallowed up by an even greater force.
It fits so well with the line, “J’ai les crocs d’une inconnue. La gueule d’une déchirure. À l’ombre du sombre soleil”[My C-grade GCSE French was not up to translating that, but Google tells me it means ‘I have the fangs of a stranger, the mouth of a tear, in the shadow of the dark sun’]. Surely that kind of writing is owed more of these suitably startling images to accompany it?
And there are so many opportunities here to do just that. To tap into a rich heritage of pagan iconography or even folk horror, as a means to living up to lyrics dripping in otherworldly foreboding. But the early promise of Barbosa-Dias’ film swiftly fades from memory. Following the forlorn Therese Darmedru through a deserted woodland, at no point does the video to Sombre Soleil even seem interested in connecting to the feel of the music it is there to support.
Instead, Darmedru shuffles through the same part of the woods (it may even be the same shot, recycled) multiple times, and hugs a tree in the light of the sinking winter sun. The aimless imagery we get is too peaceful, too one-note. There needs to be some kind of disquieting shape, some potentially malevolent presence to contrast with the lone figure – perhaps one as simple as the infamously crumpled bed-linen of Whistle and I Will Come to You – to dance and twist to the baleful tune of Sombre Soleil.
Beyond the welcome crackle of Barbosa-Dias’ grainy film, there is precious little texture to the story she has provided to accompany Glabre’s music. How much room she had for creation in that regard is hard to say – bands will often want a say on the direction of their music videos. But whoever is truly responsible for this end-result has missed an open-goal; their disappointingly unambitious vision has failed to do justice to a gloriously disturbing soundscape here.