A remarkable music video for Danish singer-songwriter Ane Trolle's song Ribbon Arms by Canadian filmmaker Kevan Funk. Two lonely people - a young porn actor and a seamstress (played by Ane) - are invited by smiling acolytes to a meeting of an evangelical church, where the congregation are in thrall of a charismatic minister.
But the outcome is not predictable. Kevan and his cinematographer (and co-producer) Benjamin Loeb focus on the positive effects of the meeting on the attendees, the comforting embrace of the evangelists - even though its cultish tendencies are obvious.
Unusually, the whole video is framed within a square image, which somehow heightens the sense of unease, and ambivalence - which would be more controversial if it wasn't for the sensitivity of the direction. And Kevan Funk is already establishing his reputation as an exceptional director. His short films Yellowhead and Destroyer have picked up awards, he has also directed several more videos, including for Efterklang, The Zolas and Wake Owl. And he is in preproduction on his first feature.
From the director
"Benjamin (my cinematographer and producing partner) discovered Ane Trolle by way of a Trentemøller track which she sang on. We both became fans of her music and reached out to her, expressing an interest in working with her on something.
"Ane flew out to Vancouver, where Ben and I were both based, and we spent a couple of days shooting the video there. The scale of the production was very small. Crew wise, it was just Benjamin and myself, something that we've done for the vast majority of our music videos. Similarly, we used only available light to shoot the video, another thing that we almost always do. As a director it's something that I really love, because in gives you the opportunity to create these very authentic spaces for your actors (or non-actors) to inhabit. I like to do whatever I can to make the mechanisms of filmmaking disappear so that the actors can really disappear into the environment.
"A great deal of the casting that I do is off of Craigslist or other amateur platforms. I really love finding interesting people, first and foremost. After that it's my role as the director to put them in a position where they will succeed. There isn't some magic power that exists which allows you to pull something out of those people that isn't already there. It's about recognizing what is special about the individual, what makes them unique and what makes them interesting, and then cultivating an environment where they are going to feel comfortable enough to really bring that forward.
"Outside of our two leads (the young man and the minister) all of the other actors were truly amateur, having very minor credits, or simply non-actors. For the actual scene at the church, we simply ran through this sermon, almost in real time. I sat everyone down at the beginning of the evening and explained how the evening would unfold and then, separately, gave Steve (who played the minister) a more specific set of instructions in terms of how to lead the evening. After that, I handed the reins over to him. I tried to let things play out as uninterrupted as possible, so that the reaction that we were getting was a truly authentic response. Even Dave (who played the young man) and Ane's interaction at the end of the video is very real in terms of the emotion. I lead the entire group through this acting exercise, which is a silent mirroring game that demands this really strange meditative focus. We had them really take their time with this, and the emotions that arose were something that ended up happening very naturally.
"The actual inspiration for the video came from a long held interest that I've had in these sort of peripheral, grassroots religious organizations, such as the early days of Jim Jones' Peoples Temple. I saw this incredible documentary photography exhibit which featured these B&W images of evangelical sermons where people were crying, passing out, screaming, etc. It was so simultaneously bizarre and intoxicating to me. It was actually this photography that inspired the square image. The idea was to try and create this feeling of medium format photography (which we did by shooting with anamorphic lenses which where attached sideways while holding the camera on its side as well).
"[Ambivalence] is something that I wanted to always maintain, a sort of objectivity of the gaze. Obviously I have my own feelings about religion, but I didn't want this to simply be an articulation of my viewpoint, mostly because I think that that it's rather boring. I really love ambiguity and feel strongly that it is the key to communicating an authentic experience seeing as how every view has their own subjective position. I wanted the video to be able to walk that line as much as possible. I like that the conclusion can feel to some as being comforting and for others it feels deeply unsettling."