Meeting someone you had admired for ages and whom you had been inspired by and even had made you had a turning point in your life was always an unforgettable experience. I must admit that I was absolutely thrilled on the day that I found out about the event; a chance to see in person, the legendary, Anton Corbijn himself.
It was at Shoot-Me Film Festival, an alternative film festival displaying various films from uncommon perspectives. Anton Corbijn’s works (music videos) were amongst the ‘films’ presented in the festival, and the organiser also arranged a special Q&A event with Anton to discuss his works.
The Q&A was held at Stichting Centrum, a venue that had been used many times for various art-related events by students from KABK (Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Den Haag). The venue however, didn’t have a heating system (or at least I didn’t notice if they had any heating system because I was freeeezing), and unfortunately the organiser of the event couldn’t make a nice adjustment for the sound system (so sometimes the sounds from the videos were really loud, and sometimes really soft) and in one or two occasions they raised the volume when Anton was still talking.
Anyway, the event started at around 19.30, and I managed to sit on the front row, despite a bit to the right. But at least I could see and hear Anton clearly as he talked about his videos and his career in general. When asked about how he started to make music videos, Anton replied that in the early 80s there were really bad music videos, where the music and the video didn’t go really well. And he felt that he knew how to make music videos as a medium.
Anton also described his early photography career. He picked up his first still camera when he was 17, where he was still at school in Groningen. He moved to Den Haag in 1974 to study photography, where he lived near the railway station Den Haag Holland Spoor. However, he didn’t like the photography school in Den Haag so he moved to Amsterdam. After 8 months, he returned to Den Haag in 1977 before finally headed to the U.K.
He finally left England and returned to Den Haag two years ago, saying that “it’s logical to return to the place where I left.”
The event played some of Anton’s famous music videos, with Anton giving some remarks in between:
Coldplay – Viva La Vida
For Depeche Mode fans, it was obvious that this video is very similar to DM’s “Enjoy the Silence”. Anton said that the song itself was inspired by Enjoy the Silence, as Chris Martin loved the video so much he wrote a song about it.
The video for Enjoy the Silence was directed by Anton, so he made a remake of the video for Coldplay. The scenes include Chris walking around in the heart of Den Haag (and also in Vrijde Paleis and the miniature of the palace in Madurodam) in the same crown and robe that Dave wore 20 years ago. Strangely enough, people didn’t really notice Chris, said Anton.
Anton added, “The funny thing was that Chris Martin was quite tall, while Dave Gahan was quite small, but they had the same head size.”
Unlike Viva La Vida video which was only shot in Den Haag and around the Netherlands, the video “Enjoy the Silence” was shot in several countries, including Switzerland (for the snow scene) and Scotland. The shootings for the video were taken from December 1989 to January 1990.
The concept of the video was about the king who was looking for place of peacefulness. Dave Gahan did not do any lip-sync in this video unless for “words are very, unnecessary.”
Another fact from this video was that it was not actually Dave who walked on the snow, but Anton’s producer. Dave was afraid to fall if he walked on the snow so Anton asked his producer to replace him.
Joy Division – Atmosphere
The video was actually made in 1988, 8 years after the death of Ian Curtis. The concept for this video was to show electric atmosphere, where people are dressed in black and white like the positive and the negative current of electricity.
Nirvana – Heart Shaped Box
The heavy colours in this video convinced everybody that it was a heavy video, claimed Anton. The video won MTV Music Awards in 1994 for Best Alternative Video.
A rather strange incident was when the old man (who climbed on the cross and crucified) was very ill and collapsed on the second day. They (the production team) called the ambulance, and the officers looked strangely at them because of the crucifix and the people in strange costumes on the set.
Coldplay – Talk
Anton said that he always started making concepts of music videos from the sound, instead of the words. He claimed that sound was more important than lyrics, and that was the reason he made a space-themed video for Coldplay’s “Talk”, which intro was taken from Kraftwerk’s “Computer Love”.
The Killers – All The Things that I’ve Done
Another video that was strongly ‘driven’ by the music was The Killer’s “All The Things that I’ve Done”, where the tingling voice at the beginning inspired Anton to made a scene of Flowers falling into a puddle of water.
Captain Beefheart – Some Yo Yo Stuff
Anton also presented his documentary video with artist Don van Vliet, a.k.a. Captain Beefheart, called “Some Yo Yo Stuff”.
A nice story from Anton was when he was asked about why he took photos of recording artists (since he was not really keen on the word ‘popstars’ – someone from the audience actually asked why he took photos of popstars). Anyway, he explained that he picked up a camera because he loved music so he wanted to find a way to get closer to music. He said, “When I was 17 there was a band playing in Groningen I used to be very shy. I asked my father for his camera because was so shy I thought if I had a camera I had a function, or I can walk around with my camera.”
Anton only took music photographs in 70s and 80s. He used to go to concerts, take pictures, developed the film, brought them to Trouw or other newspapers.
He also said,
“It’s down to you to make a difference.”
It was always nice when someone you idolised for ages actually had the same experience with you. It gave me more motivation somehow.
At the end of the Q&A session, we are given chance to ask for autographs and/or took photos with Anton. I was bloody nervous!
But he really was a nice guy. I asked a guy standing next to me to take a photo of me with Anton Corbijn, yet when it seemed that my camera had a problem of auto-focusing (well it seemed that it had troubles of taking another shot), a girl named Leonie took a photo of me and Anton with her instant camera. The result was awesome! Thanks a lot Leonie!