Music Video Meaning


All the things you don't know about rock music videos and more

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Otherside by Red Hot Chili Peppers and the horror background

From the first scene of the video you immediately notice the horror shades of Otherside by Red Hot Chili Peppers, a song dedicated to their guitarist Hillel Slovak. This musician was the founder of the band but died in 1988 for a heroin overdose. The lyrics speaks about the drug problem, in which the singer Anthony Kiedis has fallen several times. The music video was produced by American directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton. The setting is stylized, cubist, two-dimensional, in dark gothic style, with references to German expressionism.

The story of the video Otherside by Red Hot Chili Peppers

The first image shows a boy with red wings shaped like a mouth, lying on the ground and surrounded by thorns, as if he were a newly fallen angel. The singer Anthony Kiedis for the occasion has changed his look with a short platinum blonde hair; only a lock of hair is black colored. He sings from the top of a stylized tower: the environment around him is all black & white. The sky is overcast and veiled by gray clouds.

John Anthony Frusciante does not play his usual guitar but a rope that runs along a long corridor. Michael Peter Balzary aka Flea, with pink-fuchsia hair, plays the wires of electricity instead of his bass. Chad Smith plays a tower clock instead of his battery; he has a completely black dress, with a hood covering his head.

The truth about drugs like the eye of Horus

Suddenly the young man’s eyes open and light up: one of his eyes looks like the esoteric symbol of the eye with the sun. This symbol was born in the ancient Egypt and it is called “Eye of Horus”. It represents the sun and the moon but also the knowledge and the truth.

We find this symbol also in Buddhist culture and it represents knowledge, seeing beyond material reality: it is the so-called “third eye” that sees more than the other two reals. What does represent in this video? Surely it is related to the drug problem of Anthony Kiedis: realizing that drugs is a problem is already a step forward to get out of it but not enough. Kiedis in fact has tried several times to get out but has always fallen into the tunnel of drugs addictions.

The fight against drugs addictions in Otherside

The history of the music video continues showing an ambulance that travels at full speed among trees that seem thorns. On this ambulance there is the injured boy who is then taken to a hospital and nursed by nuns. He starts dreaming after an anasthesia (or maybe he was already dreaming before). He finds himself face to face with a cardboard dragon that spits fire. The boy fights with a sword and throws it in the eye of the dragon.

From the top you see a ladder going down and he hurries upstairs. He arrives at the top of a building where there is a Picasso painting: a female face with a red mouth, a nose and only the left eye. While he is looking at it, his shadow is detached from his body; the young man grabs a torch and tries to fight with his shadow. Even his shadow grabs a torch and starts fighting. The young man ends up with his back against the painting and his drawn mouth sticks to his back, becoming a kind of wings.

With wings he starts flying on the city but a giant crow sees him, hits him and makes him fall. The scene is exactly the initial one. Is the dream starting and continuing indefinitely? This story represents the nightmare of the singer Kiedis and his coming out and returning to the world of drugs, despite various attempts to fight it.

The fight that the video boy performs against his shadow means that to get out of the drug you have to fight only with yourself: the problem is not the drug or the outside world, but it is only in your own head and in your own will.

The inspiration from “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”

On the web we read that the inspiration for the music video came from the German film “The Cabinet of Dr Caligari“, a silent horror film of the 1920s. This film plays a lot on the subtle difference between reality and dream and talks about a boy, Francis, that tells the story of Dr. Caligari to a stranger. Dr. Caligari was a psychiatrist-psychoanalyst who was doing somnambulist experiments on one of his patients, Caesar, and made him perform homicides without his consent. The life of Francis is intertwined with that of Dr. Caligari, in a series of exciting and amazing events. We have a surprise in the ending: Dr. Caligari does not exist and Francis has invented the whole story: the protagonists exist only in his mind!

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