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Film Schooled: Death Cab for Cutie

The post break-up melancholy has been felt by many of us, along with the spontaneity of irrational thinking/behavior. Death Cab for Cutie’s video for their track “Title And Registration” is a dynamic duo of candid lyrics and visual representation of how the heart is viewed as a vessel for love and feeling. Director Patrick Daughters is a music video genius who adds a tone of intimacy between viewer and artist with his grainy textures and shifting back and forth between medium shots and close-ups of eyes/faces. This allows the viewer to be aware of the subject’s surroundings to understand what they are experiencing, but more importantly never lose focus of the emotion emanating from them. Daughter’s achieved this style early on when working with his video reel staples, the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s and Kings of Leon in their video’s “Date With the Night”(2003) and “The Bucket”(2004), respectively.

“Title And Registration” begins with interchanging shots of close ups of heavy-duty medical scissors and medium shots setting up the scene of what is clearly going to be an operation. For a scene like this the diegetic space is assumed to be clean, white, and so sterile the phantom smell of antiseptic burns the nostrils. In actuality, hues of amber are thrown around the room from warm light coming through a window of cotton curtains. As the narrative unfolds, introduced are abstract practical effects. Literal paper skin alluding to a soft exterior and steel band ribs that drop a hint of what is it to break open someone’s chest during an operation of this magnitude. The internal organs are of the same delicate nature, papery but emit a dim soft light, visually contrasting to patient’s blackened lifeless heart. When the operation is successful, the entire organ structure begins to glow brilliantly, a system working even better than before with its new heart at its center.

The most impressive aspect of this work is the subtlety of expression change in the patient, played by leading man, Ben Gibbard. Gibbard sings throughout the piece, intricately intertwining lyrics with his head and eye movements. It can be imagined that a patient not under full anesthesia for an invasive procedure does not just stare ahead with their eyes fixed. They look left and right, which can be a sign someone is recalling a moment or a piece of information. Someone may do this when thinking/speaking of a recent heartbreak. Lack of eye contact can be reasoned to be a lack of surety when in conversation. As the procedure concludes, he is now looking straight ahead, a surety and new paradigm in thinking when cataloguing his thoughts on the heartbreak.

About reflexivity, music and emotion go hand and hand and should not be overlooked for this piece. DCFC’s Transatlanticism is one of their more introspective in their thematical solitude of love felt and lost. If this track is about a real heartbreak for Gibbard, it means something that his bandmates are the ones in the room and performing this operation. This implores the idea that it’s important to reach out to friends and confidants when in the state of post breakup melancholy. Healing comes with time, yes, but also with a little help from the ones that lift us up or inspire us.

To quote a lyric, “where disappointment and regret collide..” you will not find “Title & Registration”.

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