"[Edge] is almost embarrassed about being a guitar player because he wants to sound fresh."
20 Years of Achtung Baby: Director Richie Smyth - Fly On The Wall (Part 2)
Second in a three-part series
November 08, 2011
Two months after "The Fly" debuted, director Richie Smyth was back at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin to shoot U2's video for the fourth track off Achtung Baby, "Until The End Of The World." As the song was written for German filmmaker Wim Wenders' movie by the same title, Smyth collaborated with Wenders for the occasion.
The song's content helped Smyth create the dark nightmare he presented in the final cut of the video. In U2 By U2, Bono said, " 'Until The End Of The World' was a kind of vision, it was ecstatic in a religious way, a song about temptation. The temptation is not obvious. The temptation is anything that will keep you from your destiny." Smyth juxtaposed Wenders' LSD trip-like distortion visuals with his dark, gritty nightmarish scenarios, he said, to "evoke a feeling rather than the typical performance."
"The guys were keen to work with Wim in some form because of the movie. In the end he sent me a bunch of footage he'd shot and rather than just drop in a few token pieces I decided to try to shoot a video that was inspired by his material so that the two would weave together to make a unified visual journey and the band were the simple link. I decided to work in the black, where images passed through the frame as if lost in the dark. I wanted it to be my dream sequence that felt anxious and like a real nightmare, not a movie horror nightmare."
There were no storyboards for the video; rather, U2 granted Smyth the freedom to create what he wanted. Working with a small production crew and limited time, he likened the band scenes more to a photo shoot: "That one was shot over a week based on the availability of the guys. I shot them all separately."
The surreal, statue-like images of Adam and Larry were one of the means Smyth used to visually connect the individual to the dark tone of the song. The rhythm section was so solid and pure, he was inspired in to film Adam and Larry in this way. "The nude is such a pure form to frame and clothes just get in the way. I was thinking 'What kind of clothes would you wear in a dream? None.' "
He got a bit more wrapped up in Edge's performance, so to speak. Smyth couldn't recall just how much cling film was used to cover Edge. However, he did remember that they couldn't find the scissors fast enough. "There was a funny moment when we finally had him wrapped completely. I had been chatting and joking with the stylist and for a minute I forgot that Edge couldn't breathe. We had to look for scissors, and I think we ran out of time and had to stick our fingers through. In fact, that's where that moment in the edit comes at the end where you can see the rapid breathing by Edge. That was the first thing we shot because it looked cool."
The cling film was Smyth's idea, as Edge didn't have his guitar in the video. "We were trying to push things. I was trying to even the playing stakes visually. Edge said, 'If you wanna do it, OK, let's do it.' So the cling film gave him something to work with that created a visual dynamic."
Bono's scenes for the video were a little tougher to get. Smyth remembers this quite fondly: "There's a Bono story on this one that was a funny moment. I'd shot everyone else. It was Friday night, and we'd been set up and waiting for Bono. He was in a pub down the road doing an interview with Rolling Stone. Eventually I said, 'F**k this, journalists never know when to stop, we'll be here all night.' So I jumped in my car and drove down to get him. Just to help the visuals, I was driving a ratted-up '65 Mustang with a three speed with a juiced-up motor. Not something you'd see in Ireland then. I pull up across from the bar just as Bono walks outta the bar. He sees the Mustang and runs over and jumps up on the bonnet (the hood) of the car, f**kin around so I stuck it into 1st and took off. As I shifted into 2nd, I suddenly thought, 'He looks like he's having a blast out there but I've a multi-million dollar industry riding on the front of my car and if he falls off we're both f**ked,' so I pulled in. He jumped in laughing and we burned back to the studio, and it was the best thing that could have happened. Nothing like a shot of adrenaline to get a cool performance outta him."
Although Smyth couldn't say if Bono’s kiss at the end was the Judas kiss, he did say that it was a nice way to close the video. "It felt like the strongest connection with the viewer of all the performance footage." Because of the limited time he had, Smyth said almost all of the footage with the band went into the final edit of the video. He said that the darkness of the video might have been the reason why it wasn't released to MTV at the time. The video was included on U2's "Achtung Baby: The Videos, The Cameos And A Whole Lot Of Interference From Zoo TV" release in 1992.
(In Part 3 of our Richie Smyth interview, we explore his remix video for "Even Better Than The Real Thing.")