Canadian post-punk band Preoccupations wrote on Bandcamp that their song “Memory” is about “watching someone lose their mind.” Their new short film for the 11 and a half-minute track forces viewers to take on that same voyeuristic position.
The band’s drummer Mike Wallace plays the tormented, unstable lead. The shots are up close and raw: we watch him smoke cigarettes, drum on his head, wipe away a nosebleed and light things on fire. The anxious energy climaxes as Wallace lights his own body on fire in an arresting and disturbing shot around the film’s middle.
Then the scene shifts for a much more tranquil second half: Wallace is reborn as a figure with a body made of something like cracked plaster (whoever did the makeup deserves accolades). The music becomes soft and ambient as the figure glides through a forest and then half-submerges himself in a river, there seeming to find inner peace.
The film’s director Kevan Funk told NPR Music that he was inspired by the story of Mohammed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor whose protest act of suicide-by-fire is cited by many as having provoked the beginning of the Arab Spring. “I don’t mean to sound dark, but there’s something poetic about a fire burning inside someone so intensely that one day, it actually physically manifested,” Funk said. “You ask yourself, how much pain can we take? How much control do we have?”
It took Preoccupations two years and six studio sessions to complete “Memory.” It appeared on their self-titled album, which came out in May via Jagjaguwar. Watch the new video above, and experience a day in the life of Preoccupations here.