Sound And Vision: Autumn de Wilde

Contributing Writer; The Netherlands
Sound And Vision: Autumn de Wilde

In the article series Sound and Vision we take a look at music videos from notable directors. This week we look at The Decemberists' Once In My Life, directed by Autumn de Wilde.

Autumn de Wilde made a big impression with her debut feature movie, Emma., a few years ago, but before that she had a long and storied career as a photographer, mostly of music artists, and as a music video director. I want to focus on one of her music videos, that has meant a lot to me over the years, which will make this Sound and Vision in fact a slightly more personal one than usual.

I have struggled all my life to see myself represented in the media. I'm genderqueer, gay, autistic and don't fit in in general. This is partly because I stand out because of my height as a person who almost reaches 6 foot 8, and has a peculiar way of moving because of my posture and neurodivergencies. Tell me where you can find a character in the media that is even close to approaching someone like me? Well, I found it in the music video for Once In My Life by The Decemberists.

Not only is Jacob, who features in the music video, a whole lot taller than even I am, he is also neurodivergent, a fact that the director of the video and the singer of the band single out. In fact, Jacob's neurodivergency, living with an auditory processing disorder, seems to partly inform the haptic sensory style of the music video, which itself comes very close to my lived experience of how I perceive the world. Colin Meloy, the singer of the decemberists, whose child is autistic, ties Jacobs experiences to the experience of his son in a statement that he and Autumn de Wilde made about the video. This is a video about being neurodivergent, is what i am saying.

What also really hit me is that the music video is personal for Autumn de Wilde herself. Jacob is her brother. The way in which she shows how he experiences the world is one full of love. There is an innate sense of trust between her and him, that is also often present in her photography. Good photographers build a sense of rapport and understanding between them and the subject, and that is ever so present here.

Only because of that trust, we can see Jacob as his true self. And that was what hit me, and led to a big catharsis. Not only is Jacob a gentle giant like me, not only is he neurodivergent and has similar sensory experiences, the way in which he moves and looks is at times eerily and scarily similar to the way I can look and move. We have the same fidgety hand movements, the same sort of smile when we think nobody is looking. The same downward eye movements when trying to not be confrontational. And when we dance, it is clumsy, but with a reckless abandon that is infectious.

That is what touched me most about this music video: it is about a person who, in their infectious joy and reckless abandon of what others think, is so fully and totally themselves, that they bring others into that zone of joy, kindness and forgiveness. This is an extremely empathetic video by an extremely empathetic director and singer. And it is how I want to live. How I want to perceive myself, even though I can struggle to be like that. It is what led to my catharsis. Once In My Life is the only time I saw someone like me in the media, but also the rare instance that I saw someone who I want to be even more like. That's special.

It is something I will be forever grateful for, that it exists. Because in this day and age, representation of neurodivergent people is still dire. To have something out there that comes from a place of love and understanding, means the world to me. Something like this has only happened once in my life.

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