“No use getting angry at the way that you’re wired.”
It seems we’re always spoiled by the talented creative team that comes together for dodie‘s music videos and somehow introduces new depth to lyrics we thought we fully grasped before; her most recent video for “Guiltless” was no exception. Directed by Guy Larsen and edited by Jack Howard (along with countless other well-deserved credits), the “Guiltless” video cleverly confronts the sea of emotions that comes with childhood trauma and the internal struggle to acknowledge and validate them.
The video drips with symbolism, every shifting glance of paranoia and every fading, tired smile a depiction of the constant weight these dark thoughts have on dodie’s character day to day. She illustrates the metaphorical baggage she carries with a very literal, very large, decrepit trunk, one that spews forward a cloud of impenetrable dust when opened: stifling and impossible to ignore. At one point, she unsuccessfully tries to hide it, the lyrics expressing a desire to build up hope to combat this dread and exhaustion she feels. The trunk returns later inexplicably in the same shot, her unaddressed feelings still haunting her. All the while, the perpetrator feels nothing, and the titular phrase is repeated like a mantra: “you believe you’re guiltless.”
When dodie shakily confronts these feelings and whatever darkness they hold, she thrusts open the suitcase to find it completely empty. In a brief moment of pause, she breaths a sigh of relief, only to be pulled down into a deep, black abyss. She falls, grasping at nothing, the darkness of the void enveloping her entirely, as opaque and terrifyingly vast as the open sea.
We land again on an off-center shot of the trunk, unsettlingly alone and, notably, down the stairs dodie had seemingly ascended earlier; have we sunk further into the inescapable web of trauma her past has woven? Such an unassuming piece of decor that now seems malicious. The camera pans down on a chorus of dodie’s character, each embodying her conflicting emotions, the angle almost suggesting that the audience is peering into the trunk that has now trapped her. While the vocals are beautiful, the drastically different emotions create a stark picture that leaves the audience uneasy; her wide smile, upside down from above, and her unbreaking eye contact from under furrowed brows, singing in strange unison as the differing melodic lines almost fight to be heard over one other. The last few isolated shots of each version of dodie make the viewer constantly shift context for the words, from sad to apathetic, from joyous to enraged, and we’re left exhausted as the acapella comes to an abrupt halt. Inadvertently, we’re standing in her shoes. Tired.
Not only is this video brilliant in the way it physically depicts internal conflict, but also in the way it frames trauma – the audience never sees the root cause of what happened here because that’s not part of the narrative dodie is trying to tell. It’s a story that focuses on the aftermath, the way those who inflict trauma can see their actions as blameless and how emotions stemming from trauma can fester into a beast to rival the person who caused them. It validates the real exhaustion that occasionally comes along with self-reconciliation, and the failures that often appear on the journey to feeling healed.
With such rich detail, we have a feeling that this is a video that will reveal new meaning with every watch. Go see for yourself!