100videos (100videos) wrote,

#7: "Losing My Religion," R.E.M.

Rank: 7
Artist: R.E.M.
Title: Losing My Religion
Director: Tarsem
Year: 1991

The other obvious choice in my top 10—so obvious and taken for granted that it's almost beyond commentary. I recall how everyone was struck at the time by how the thing looked, the art direction and editing and so on (even if they didn't phrase it as such), and how everyone had their own interpretation of what exactly it was all about (my own pet analysis: flight as a metaphor for enlightenment, from Christianity and the Age of Reason to the Communist Revolution to Eastern philosophy to knowledge itself). But watching it again now for this project after all this time, it finally dawned on me just how important this video was: Tarsem, who made few videos after this one and became an international critics' piñata for directing The Cell years later, had managed to do more with the media form since its heyday in the mid-80s. It was pretty much the point at which critics started using the words "music video" and "art" in the same sentence. More than that, after years of nothing but cookie-cutter hair-metal stage performance clips (and the occasional Madonna innovation), "Losing My Religion" marked the moment when the pendulum finally, finally swung back in favor of concept. Tarsem and R.E.M. had pretty much kicked the door open; in their wake came the Spike Jonzes and Samuel Bayers and Mark Romaneks of the world, as well as MTV's decision to start listing director names on their video info crawls, quite possibly the most important thing the network ever did to preserve and promote the art form. There's a reason we take it for granted now: for many years after, this was Music Video, its shape and style and scope and vision. I cannot name any one video that changed the art form itself this radically, and it did it quietly, with four band members in a plain room with a piece of paper taped to the wall at the last minute, and a doubting Thomas in Renaissance regalia, and a team of blacksmiths, and a book with wings. That's not much, when you spell it out like that, but in the end, it was why I was able to do this list in the first place.

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