CLASSIC FILMCLIPS : MASSIVE ATTACK – Unfinished Sympathy (1991)
Man, where does one start in talking about the brilliance of this clip. Directed by Bailie Walsh in 1991, the clip is one continuous steadicam move. Starting on a close up of a G’s hand and then elevating on some sort of cherry picker, the camera widens and rises in the air to show us where we are – the setting for the clip – the hood. The camera then takes us higher before panning right and de-elevating to the street past a young kid shooting a toy gun at us to find our protagonist, singer Shara Nelson, walking away from camera through a populated back street.
The camera begins to gain speed and catch up to Shara turning onto a busier main street and eventually positioning itself in front of her. During this moment, we pass so many states of being – people standing about, kids running, graffed up walls, rubbish littered throughout side walks & gutters. Instantly we feel a mood for this world and are placed directly on street level with the people and the protagonist. The camera is now leading Shara down the street, as she sings facing camera, but not to camera, passing many more walks of life, scenarios, fun, love, tragedy and ultimately a lettuce/cabbage fight. What we see on her journey creates a wonderful world of characters without voice but with silent action and emotion. We are now in her world and state of mind. We are kept here for minutes of the clip, totally immersed in what Shara is singing and what is happening around her. Closed Form technique at its finest. There is no escape.
Nothing feels too forced or terribly set up in this clip. Obviously some situations are planted in certain places but the mood created is very natural, and a kind of “let’s just see what happens” realistic approach. This is where the power lies in the execution of the clip. Just another day in the hood. This is our place and this is what happens here – take it or leave it. Community.
Shara Nelson’s haunting vocals, Massive Attack’s incredible 808’s and strings along with Walsh’s direction and vision, all contribute to one of the most original and replicated clips of all time.
A late night Rage classic for the 90’s and beyond.