The Carmen Horse
The First Frame of Each Shot from Lana Del Rey’s video Carmen: Part II
The Turin Horse is about the heaviness of human existence. How it’s difficult to live your daily life, and the monotony of life.
–Béla Tarr, on his film The Turin Horse
The video mutated. Through copying, it evolved until a new strain emerged. It’s still lurking out there somewhere. And it’s taken a completely different form.
–Koji Suzuki, from Spiral
He stared at the black rain she had inked on his hand and told himself it was there to soften his resolve to fight. She was clever. She knew what rain does. It softens hard things.
–Deborah Levy, from Swimming Home
The frame is blood-soaked by the invisible hand of the one who watches over the video. Detached from the flow of images that make up “Carmen,” the video frame serves as an omen revealing—for an instant—that this is not just another music video, but rather a horror film.
“As in science, the process of creative art is two-fold: the experience of reality by the artist on one side, and his manipulation of that experience into an art reality on the other. In his person he is an instrument of discovery; in his art he exercises the art-instrument of invention.” –Maya Deren, from An Anagram of Ideas on Art, Form and Film, 1946.
The elderly woman approaches the end of the diving board, trailing a patch of white light behind her. We are in the open sun, now. The illusion of safety.
“The day is close when the 8mm home movie footage will be collected and appreciated as beautiful folk art, like songs and lyric poetry, that was created by the people.” –Jonas Mekas, from “8mm as Folk Art” in The Village Voice, 1963.
In the darkness the edges of the frame move in brief illuminations. In the fast contexts of the video, this shot makes no sense other than to bind color to black and white.
The first of several home movies, perhaps of Ms. Del Rey, performing something somewhere.
The black, reasonless frame again. In his book The Fold, Gilles Deleuze wrote: “At a point close to us, human Reason had to collapse.”
The boy in blue understands that this frame from soundless color footage, taken over twenty years ago, will be seen by millions of people. He understands this, impossibly, at the time of the filming, and also this: that within the shot there is a secret message. The message is in a gesture, the gesture of the sun-bleached woman as the boy passes.
The reverse-universe image from shot #53.
“The spectacle is the acme of ideology, for in its full flower it exposes and manifests the essence of all ideological systems: the impoverishment, enslavement and negation of real life.” Guy Debord, from The Society of the Spectacle
“She laughs / like God / her mind’s / like a diamond.”
Weary of black and white, the change that happens in frame #65 is already in her mind.
In another context, you would search for clues for an Event. A blowout caused by a gunshot, the rifle barrel withdrawing back into the window frame right. The white truck pulled over, its headlights about to go off. An image so over-coded with history that it barely exists as itself.
The warmth of human skin in the city.
“Audio tune lies / she’s still shining.”
“They are taking pictures of taking pictures.” Don DeLillo, from White Noise
“Carmen” cuts like an animated knife back and forth between two kingdoms, one that is color, and one that is black and white.
In a sense, every image is a documentary image, reflecting the presence of the documenter.
“Will the images we’ve seen throughout our lives remain inside our eyes? Will we be like a modern camera, filled with little rolls of film; of course, rolls that don’t need to be developed? If I die before reaching my home, before seeing my mother whom I love so much, will she get to see the photographic film stored inside me?” Silvina Ocampo, from The Topless Tower
As in shot #54, the illusion of safety. Yet this time the subject passes too close before the camera, and something awakens.
“Its [the home video] familiar exhibition apparatus, a VCR and domestic monitor typical for domestic television reception, requires no special lighting or setup, making home video more continuous than home movies with the everyday activities it depicts.” James M. Moran, from There’s No Place Like Home Video
“Carmen, Carmen staying up ‘til morning.”
The blacked out faces of the Disney dolls.
In the confusion of angles, the watcher watches. Who will watch the Watchmen? We are beyond surveillance now. The act of looking constitutes a violation. The blue-green image is not of this world.
In your dream, the silhouetted animated figures dance against the backdrop of an atomic bomb sky. A replication of a replication. The introduction of evil—real evil—into the world for the first time.
A nightmare from, or about, childhood.
In the context of Del Rey’s star quality, this frame seems to suggest a self-reflexive commentary on the necessity and absurdity of parading oneself in front of others in one’s role as star.
“It is the quiet shore of contemplation that I set aside for myself, as I lay bare, under the cunning, orderly surface of civilizations, the nurturing horror that they attend to pushing aside by purifying, systematizing, and thinking.” Julia Kristeva, from Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection
Lit by hell fire.
A refrain of shot #7 from part I.
A prelude to shot #88. The Teddy bear sits upon a stack of what appear to be old Life magazines, and yet they are reproductions. They are false. It is at this moment that the “Carmen” video makes its dark intentions clear. It is in the small visual by-ways that the video lies.
The rapid movement of the zoom, the windows near the outer edges of the frame flying off, as if fleeing the ghost images that are beginning to make their presence felt in the video itself.
“The VCR’s controls may manipulate the flow of images: fast-forward, instant replay, fast motion, slow motion, reverse motion, freeze-frame, and frame-by-frame functions allow for intervention, analysis, and play, revealing the tape as an artificial construct defamiliarizing video’s so-called reality effect.” James M. Moran, from There’s No Place Like Home Video
The darkness finally finds its embodied expression in the vertical space between the buildings.
Black, turning to . . .
. . . blood red.
“If the videotape did mutate and evolve into a new form during the process of multiple copying, then it wouldn’t matter at all to the new species if the old one died out.” Koji Suzuki, from Spiral
As a result of studying the decompressed image, it is clear that the TREE CARE COMPAN sign was inserted into the frame post-filming.
Likewise, the time code here has been added much later, as an attempt to pass on information in the form of numbers.
Part I appeared here; part III will appear in late February