"It's a trap when you agree to being one person because when you step out of character with that, you look like a hypocrite."
-- Bono, on his Macphisto persona
Like A Video: Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of (European version)
September 26, 2013
[Ed. note: This is the 19th in a series of essays by the @U2 staff about U2-related visuals and videos. Some essays may be informational and educational, while others may be more personal.]
Not all U2 videos have a clear storyline that takes the viewer on a journey, a specific narrative that visualizes the meaning of the song. Some do, however, and for me "Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of" is one of the most powerful. Although it is a pretty literal representation of what the song is about, it is done in such a way that it doesn't come across as trivial.
At the start of the video, we see Bono being mercilessly thrown out of a van on a cold night. As he is lying there on the ground, his friends, the other members of U2, run after the van and try to get to him, but are held back by a road they need to cross on foot. This repeats itself during the video. No matter how hard they try, they can't manage to get out of their situation. Bono keeps tumbling to the ground, unable to stand up and the others can't cross the street; every time they're half way, they're transported back to where they started.
This video has a powerful presence and message. The atmosphere is quite bleak, using mostly dark, brownish colors and a sharp contrast between light and dark. When Bono is on the ground the first time, his shadow is pitch black while the light around him is quite bright, but diffuse. When we see Edge standing in the middle of the road, looking at Bono, the lighting source is behind him, which gives the scene a bit of an unreal feeling: he's standing there like a beacon of light, but at the same time it feels as if it can't be true that someone might actually be willing to help.
Something that is executed quite well in the video is the timing of the song with the events in the video. Especially around the 1:30 minute mark, Bono's fall coincides with the snare drum in such a way that it always provokes a response of "ouch" in my mind, as if it is Bono's body that causes that noise. The same thing happens at 3:33 when he is thrown out for the last time and really looks like he's in pain. At last, he manages to get up, but then crashes to the ground again. Poor Bono.
Bono talks about the song in U2 By U2, where he explains that it was originally written about Michael Hutchence. "It is like somebody's in a stupor and you're trying to wake them up, the cops are coming and they're sitting at the wheel and you're trying to get them out of the car 'cause they're gonna crash it. Because I just knew that if Michael had hung on an extra half an hour it would have been OK. That's the thing. When you're in that moment you don't believe you can get out of it. You think this blackness that surrounds you will never pass. But it does pass."
I'm glad I haven't personally been in such bad shape. Still, I think things don't have to be pitch black for the song to be a comfort. After all, we've all been there: problems, bad things that leave you feeling like there is no way out -- or at least, no way that you can think of. It's like the band members that are desperately trying to cross that road, but everywhere they look there are cars that will run them over if they go any further. It leaves them paralyzed: Do I go forward, or should I turn back? If I go forward this way, will any of those cars hit me? On the other hand, I can't stay here forever....
Just like them, you're unsure what to do. And then, when you finally make a decision and assemble enough courage to take a step forward, it turns out it didn't help at all and you're back where you started.
Or maybe your situation is more like Bono's: You know how you're supposed to get out -- just get up and go -- but no matter how hard you try, life keeps throwing you off balance, so you end up back at square one. To make things worse, people don't even seem to notice you're in trouble, they just pretend that you're not there, even though they have to step over you so as not to hit you. What's the point? You might as well not try to get out anymore and just remain in this situation indefinitely.
At these moments, it's friendship and love that we all need. Someone to show you the way to maneuver out of a situation where you seem to be threatened from all sides. Perhaps your own thoughts have been going around in circles, so you just hadn't thought of that one possibility. Someone who knows you, who recognizes how you think and what you don't see, can have an objective view that shows you what you're missing. Perhaps you lack the strength to get up on your own two feet, but if someone helped you, you'd be able to stand up and carry your own weight. You'd be able to face whatever is bothering you and stand up to it, take action and solve your problems.
I've had situations like these where I needed that little push, those wise words, the encouragement to get out of a bad situation. And I hope I myself have also given this to others as well. That's why I think the end of the video is perfect. Just those intertwined hands, a strong hand that lifts the other up and supports them, so they can find their own feet and get out of their predicament.
(c) @U2/Meijer, 2013.