The video Come As You Are by Nirvana was directed by Kevin Kerslake, who also worked for the videos “In Bloom”, “Lithium” and “Sliver”. There are many symbolic elements in this video. Let’s see them one by one.
The symbolic elements in the video Come As You Are by Nirvana
A gun floating in the water is framed from the beginning. It does not seem to be a heavy thing that falls on the bottom, but rather a semi-light element that sinks slowly.
On the scene we see Kurt Cobain, sitting on a chandelier hanging from the ceiling. With him there is the acoustic guitar. We also notice a dog coming down from the dark stairs: it has a health collar, of those used in the post-veterinary careers.
Other video images show an altered sperm that moves in a blue liquid; altered because it has two tails and its head is not uniform. It seems that is undergoing changes. Shortly thereafter an ovule appears surrounded by hundreds of sperms.
In the water there is also a hook with a banknote, used as bait. A small child swims, trying to reach the banknote.
Meanwhile the water runs down the stairs, Cobain hangs from the chandelier and sways like a monkey, in a rather neurotic and dangerous way.
Nirvana plays, while in front of them the water of a waterfall flows and obscures their images.
In the end we see the three members of the band and Cobain kisses the camera. Note that in this video he does not have his usual blond hair but red hair.
The meaning of the video Come As You Are by Nirvana
Clearly the video is full of symbolic images. What meaning do they have? The gun is also mentioned in the lyrics:
“I do not have a gun”
Remember that this song is from 1991 and Kurt Cobain commits suicide four years later, shooting himself with a firearm. Probably for him the gun was a crucial element, an immediate escape from problems. In 1991 Cobain said “I do not have a gun”, perhaps because he meant he did not intend to commit suicide.
According to other sources, the scene of the gun sinking into the water and the acoustic guitar on the chandelier recall an episode of Cobain’s youth, at the time of his 15 years. His mother had a violent argument with the stepfather and threw his arms into a river. Cobain went to retrieve them, he decided to sell them and with the proceeds he bought his first acoustic guitar.
Other interpretations consider the gun as a syringe and link lyrics and video to heroin addiction.
The child swimming chasing a hook with a banknote
The song Come As You Are by Nirvana is from the album Nevermind, which on the cover presents a child underwater that follows a dollar bill used as bait. The same scene we see in Come As You Are, together with images of the ovule and sperms. What do these images mean? They mean that from birth we are destined to follow money: money affects our whole life.
The dog with the health collar could represent moments of uneasiness in our existence, when everything flows before us and we are not able to understand what is happening, we are helpless and weak. The dog in fact moves in an undecided manner on the stairs, it is afraid to slip on the wet surface and seems lost and alone.