Lovers of classic Armenian cinema, today is your day! Lady Gaga has based her new video for Chromatica single "911" largely on the Sergei Parajanov classic 1969 Soviet art film The Color of the Pomegranates. We know this, because when Gaga is first introduced she's surrounded by actual pomegranates. For good measure, the poster of the film appears briefly (after the video's twist ending, but more on that later).
Gaga worked on the video with director Tarsem Singh, who’s better known in recent years for making Hollywood fantasies like the Julia Roberts-starring Mirror Mirror and Jennifer Lopez's The Cell. Though, he actually got his start in music videos, and this is his first return to the format in 26 years. He's also frequently cited Parajanov as a major influence, so it's not surprising that a chance to work with Gaga and pay homage to one of his favorite films lured him back.
"This short film is very personal to me, my experience with mental health and the way reality and dreams can interconnect to form heroes within us and all around us," Gaga wrote on Instagram. "I’d like to thank my director/filmmaker Tarsem for sharing a 25-year-old idea he had with me because my life story spoke so much to him."
The original film is a poetic retelling of the life of 18th-century troubadour Sayat-Nova. Parajanov used little actual dialogue in the film, and most of the story is told through narrative, sound, some music, and occasional title cards. Critics have described the film as deeply mysterious, and it’s been included in several critics' polls of the best film ever made. (It's streaming on Criterion, if it sounds like your kind of weekend watch).
Art film Twitter is currently ablaze, pointing out the shot-for-shot comparisons between the film and "911."
Channeling heralded art and independent cinema into music videos is nothing new. The Smashing Pumpkin's milestone "Tonight, Tonight" video was based on Georges Méliès's A Trip to the Moon. Madonna frequently used art house cinema for inspiration, most directly with the references to Maya Deren's At Land in her video for "Cherish." Teyana Taylor just channeled Spike Lee's 1996 indie flick Girl 6 in a music video earlier this week.
Though, Gaga takes it a step further with a shocking twist ending. After about 3 minutes and 45 seconds of her Pomegranates fantasy, it’s revealed that everything going on in the film took place in Gaga's head after a car crash that occurred on her way to an Armenian Film Festival.
Watch the video, and the trailer for Pomegranates, below.