Hints the band has given us:
Coupled indie film The Sacrifice – about WWIII from the 80’s-90’s with a story about a Swedish mining town that chooses to have a child to save their village – love triangle involved.
In the first part of the video it is showing the men working in the coal mines and walking through their beautiful green valley and into their home. You see the two men from the love triangle working together in the coal mines, thus suggesting that they are close friends. Then there is a radio announcement about a war or some sort of military pursuit – it’s hard to hear, the man turns off the radio and hugs his companion. There is a rumbling in the house signaling the precursor to a larger more catastrophic disaster to come.
Next, there is a meeting with additional faces – extended family or towns people and the speaker proclaims, a child will save us and it has to be done. He selects two people and I am not sure why, I think one would have to explore the two juxtaposed pieces alt-j have given us to figure it out. I did read somewhere that the woman is believed to be a witch so possibly having multiple lovers is related to that – she has a bewitching quality. It seems she is a witch from a later scene as well where she cuts off a piece of her hair and gives it to her son, some sort of protection spell. Also, her companion looks different – likely from another village and the two selected have more similar features so maybe their families are both from that village and/or possessing the same ethnicity that the townsmen want to preserve.
Very graphic baby born, just wow, such a powerful moment in the video and a bold move on alt-j’s part. The gift of life is pure and it does not come across as pervie to me at all, the emotions and depiction are very real, anyone who has had a baby and/or witnessed a baby being born can relate at this moment and/or even if not, it will stir up something in everyone – one’s own birth for instance – this is the universal bombshell of the video and I believe intended to be so.
We watch the boy growing up in the mining village, singing at the piano and watching his family, his mother is playing the piano. There is smiling, passionate singing and while the boy is sitting on the stairs, his mother looks at him while she is playing and this is something that stayed with him his whole life – these memories of childhood, familiarity, love, family, church, home, etc….
Boom, as in all alt-j videos – disaster strikes. You see his mother dressed in white and running – I believe this is a shot in the future and she is a ghost and/or it symbolizes her soul remaining in the valley, she is wearing an off white dress and her hair is free flowing. Next, we watch the couple hugging, a shot of light and a catastrophic blast that goes rippling through the town and engulfs the home and the couple in a black cloud – it seems unlikely that this couple would survive. We do see the boy on the hilltop though, so this symbolizes that he did, in fact, escape the blast and survived – this suggests he is the lone survivor.
Alt-j play a trick, it cuts to a scene with the men walking with black soot covering their faces and they show his mother running once again. I believe that they are trying to fool us into believing that only the mother died in the explosion but after watching the video several times, I believe that this is just a shot of the men before the blast walking in the valley after working the coal mines from earlier in the story, ah and/or very cheeky – the village coal miner’s souls living on in the green valley. The witch, a wondering, free spirit and the men’s souls working hard in the coal mines – duty, pride, honor, hard work is more important to these men than the love of a woman and is what lives on. This is further confirmed by the fact that it is still green in the valley and the explosion would have destroyed everything and everyone. I believe strongly the boy was the only survivor of the village.
Finally, the boy is sent off to a religious boarding school, where he is singing with other children in the choir, it is obviously reminiscent of his old village that was destroyed and his family that likely died in the explosion. The boy is moved to tears. We watch him grow up in this new location, at first he is very angry and one can feel and relate to his pain. He fights, cries, has a very mad yet determined look on his face throughout these scenes and one can see he is truly grieving with heavy loss – he lost everything and everyone he ever knew and loved.
It ends with the boy a little more grown up walking through a slightly different valley with what looks like a slight smile but still very sad and melancholy – this is our glimmer of hope and happy ending, as happy as an ending can be to such a tragic tale.