The song Heart Shaped Box by Nirvana came out a few months before Kurt Cobain’s death and describes well the last period of his life. The music video also shows us what was going through Cobain’s tormented mind, as the screenplay was made 80% by him and to a small extent by the Dutch director Anton Corbijn.
His wife, Courtney Love, said that the song was dedicated to her, but looking at the video and listening to the words it would not seem to be a love song.
The protagonists of the music video are three disquieting figures, moving on a scene with surreal outlines: the red background, the flowers and the bare trees that seem to be drawn, the fake crows.
Is God dead or about to die?
The music video Heart Shaped Box begins with the scene of a room covered with gray drapes and an old man lying on a bed, with an IV containing a red liquid.
At the end of the video we will see that inside the IV there is a dead fetus. Around him three men sitting on a chair: they are the three members of Nirvana who wait for him to die.
A black cross is drawn on the ground.
In the next scene the old man is dressed only in a pair of white underpants and has a Santa Claus hat on his head; he is picking up poppies in a field.
In the foreground, we can see the cross with perched ravens. The old man climbs on the cross, helping himself with a ladder and crucifies himself: on his head he now wears a silver papal miter, set with diamonds.
Who is this old man? It is the depiction of Jesus Christ as he is today: a symbol of a decadent religion, which rests on old and now outdated pillars.
Nietzsche said: “God is dead”. Cobain instead wanted to tell us: “God is about to die”.
The girl with the ice blue eyes
The other character from the Nirvana Heart Shaped Box music video is a little girl who looks a lot like Kurt Cobain: she has blonde, long and oxygenated hair, and ice-blue eyes.
He has a dress that resembles a papal suit or a tunic of Ku Klux Klan members. We see this girl jumping to grab dead fetuses hanging from trees; then jumps also to grab the old man on the cross.
Suddenly the little girl’s hat flies away and ends in a red puddle. The hat starts to turn red and eventually becomes black: it looks more like a wizard’s hat.
We see her in the next scene in a black dress: she watches the dying old man in bed.
What does this child represent? Metaphorically she represents the groups of people who are holding the fate of the world. They are conservatives, traditionalists, reactionaries andcontinue to keep alive the ideas and beliefs of the death of religion, to impose a way of life.
They show their good side (the little girl in the white dress) but they actually act subtly (the little girl dressed in black).
The taboo on the sexual sphere
The third character in the music video is an overweight angel woman who has the body painted with the organs of the human body.
What does she represent? She probably represents the sexual sphere, on which society put taboos and prevented from speaking freely.
This topic, sexuality, is like a fat woman because it is a huge, immense subject that smiles and welcomes us with open arms. But on this subject society imposes silence on us.
The dead children hanging from the trees are human beings: perennially hanging from the tree of life and of sexuality.
The poppies of the scene depict the female period: the girl at some point takes a poppy and throws it away; this represents the religion that does not want to talk about these things and “throw it away”.
The heart-shaped box
But what is the Heart Shaped Box that gives the title to the song? We see the heart-shaped box in the final scenes. Nirvana are inside a giant box and at the same time the little girl and drummer Dave Grohl are holding a heart-shaped box.
Some paople say it was a box where Kurt Cobain kept the drug. Others say it was the representation of the female pelvis that is in fact heart-shaped. Also because the album’s title is In Utero.
We also talk about this music video in this post.