Sound And Vision: Zack Snyder

Contributing Writer; The Netherlands
Sound And Vision: Zack Snyder

In the article series Sound and Vision we take a look at music videos from notable directors. This week we look at three music videos by director Zack Snyder.

I'm not the biggest fan of Zack Snyder, and that is an understatement. Something about his overwrought style of extreme slow-motion, burnt amber colorization and hyper stylized tableaux vivants, rubs me the wrong way. It's kitsch. And that is not even going into the stories, which are full of blatant homophobia, xenophobia, right-wing Randian value-systems and gratuitously violent power fantasies. I was hesitantly on board with his new film, Rebel Moon, as I love myself a garish space opera big budget folly, but it turned out to be a typical Snyder film. Not my thing, in other words.

Interestingly enough, Snyder started out as a music video director with his flaws not yet in place. More strongly said: he had a fully different style and approach to his music videos than he has to his films. Only his more recent music video for My Chemical Romance's Desolation Row feels vintage Snyder, as it is tied into his own adaptation of Watchmen. But his other music videos are fully different, except for his love of orange hues. The slow-motion is nowhere to be seen, and there is no extreme sense of stylization to the settings in the music videos. There is not even any story to speak of, in most of them, which means there is no questionable conservative moralism in there, either.

Instead, Snyder mostly focuses on another visual trick, that is only subtly present in some of his features: he pulls the focus on shots, while also oversaturing the light-balance with a flash. The effect is that the shot goes from clear imagery and lighting to a sudden herky-jerky white-out that is out of focus, giving a frantic edge to the editing and imagery. It is so 90's.

And Snyder returns to this effect time and time again. He used it first in his music video for Peter Murphy's You Are So Close (below), for maximum effect, making it fit with the slightly heavy rock edge to the music. But it feels very out of place with the smooth R&B pop of Dionne Farris' I Know (also below), or the smooth soft rock of Rod Stewart's Leave Virginia Alone (also, also below). The last of these at least introduces some minor story elements, to make sense of the effect, where it seems to tie into the ghostly feel Snyder is trying to establish. But by then it already feels like a trick he relies on. Some directors work feels unified and 'of one piece', other times the same approach feels lazy, and like the director in case is resting on their laurels. All in all, Snyder might never be my favorite director, too easily relying on visual tricks that feel stale by the time he has used them twice.

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