Thursday, March 26, 2009

H&M Spring 2009: Visually Stunning and Surreal Campaign Commercial

It is rare that I find a television ad that really makes a strong (and positive) impression on me. But I was incredibly taken with H&M's new Spring 2009 campaign spot. Besides being visually stunning—paralleling the aesthetic of the print campaign with its modern white mise-en-scene and bright red accents—the commercials feature a unique and attention-grabbing scenario with actors wearing clothes from the Spring 2009 collection.

The ads—compiled below in a video made available via YouTube—are staged as a series of surreal vignettes involving model Eva Herzigova and actor/director Vincent Gallo. The main narrative of the fun and whimsical yet nightmarish campaign is the perpetual frustration of Herzigova and Gallo's vain attempts to reach each other—a very Freudian premise indeed. The events take place in a veritable funhouse environment in which their pursuit of each other is constantly thwarted by conveyer belts set into the floor, a paradoxical ladder that leads only back to the same room, a narrow hallway replete with red doors that cannot logically or spatially exist, and a staircase that ends abruptly in space. Several of the short scenes feature oversized objects (a telephone, a spool of thread) or people (Herzigova) in a stark white room that evoke Surrealist artist René Magritte's paintings of gigantic objects in claustrophobic spaces, such as Le Tombeau de Lutteurs from 1960. The final spot shows a surreal city of distorted perspective, reminiscent of the impossible scenarios envisioned by the graphic artist M.C. Escher such as "Prentententoonstelling" (or "The Print Gallery"), a mathematically-inspired print from 1956.

The commercials were directed by Johan Renck, a Swedish musician and music video director who has worked with the likes of Kylie Minogue, Madonna, New Order and Beyoncé. The appropriately haunting yet seductive soundtrack comes from the song "I've Seen That Face Before" sung by Swedish vocalist Camilla Henemark. The accordian-laden tango sound was composed by none other than Barry Reynolds and Astor Piazzolla, the renowned Argentine tango composer and bandoneón player.

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