Icelandic quintet Of Monsters And Men recently dropped the video for “Empire,” the second single from sophomore album Beneath The Skin. Male singer Ragnar Þórhallsson’s overly smooth, raspy-but-not-really-raspy vocal stylings can grate after awhile, but “Empire” is musically meatier than the occasionally cutesy songs that the band has become known for. That said, the video is really something to behold! Particularly if you’re into watching glamorous models in fabulous outfits falling in love, or maybe murdering one another.
Swedish model Erika Linder plays the lead, a bowtie-wearing young lady who spies a glamorous older woman wearing possibly the most shimmery dress ever committed to black and white film. Played by sixty-eight year old fashion model Ingmari Lamy, a fashion star of the late sixties, the older woman draws Linder to a glamorous party, which the younger woman watches from the window. Then things get a little bit hazy. The two escape together, run through a field, hang out in a potting shed, have sex. Or do they?
On first viewing, I thought the video was an homage to the wonderfully dark 1971 comedy Harold and Maude, in which a suicidal young man becomes infatuated with a wacky old lady that he meets at a funeral. Or perhaps it’s a little more like the lady equivalent of Gerontophilia, Bruce LaBruce’s recent film about the relationship between two men of very different ages. But “Empire” is a little more complicated than that. I don’t want to spoil the ending, because really you should watch this one through, but it seems as if these two women are a little more connected than it may seem at first.
In real life, Linder is a lesbian fashion model known for her androgynous style and her penchant for menswear. In her very first photo shoot, for Candy Magazine, Linder adapted the persona of Leonardo DiCaprio in The Basketball Diaries.
Director Tabitha Denholm has previously made videos for Haim, Jennifer Hudson, Florence and the Machine, and Jessie J, in addition to a fascinating documentary short about zydeco trail riding. The “Empire” video might be her best ever. Partly it’s the exquisite black and white cinematography, and partly it’s this strange, ambiguous story of two women finding their true selves.