With the promotional video for “The Unforgettable Fire,” U2 once again turn to director Meiert Avis, who had worked with the band on all of their videos to this point, save for the one which came immediately prior to this one, the video for “Pride (In the Name of Love).” Some of the videos that Mister Avis has made for U2 have been quite good, while others have been not-so-good. The video for “The Unforgettable Fire,” unfortunately, falls into the not-so-good category. There are lots of disparate elements to this video, and some of it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but I will do my best to unpack it all below.
The video starts off with a distant shot of some city buildings, with the lights twinkling on in time with the twinkling of the instrumental music of the song’s intro. Bono appears in all his mulleted glory, and he watches some video footage of the Larry, Edge, and Adam, in that order, on a small monitor. At times, Bono’s image is superimposed over shots of a city, with the traffic lights elongated along the city streets. Bono begins to sing, and the image on the screen fluctuates between Bono’s head and the same footage of the city streets. Some of Bono’s singing is shown in slow-motion, as are a few further shots of Larry drumming. I wrote in my review of the video for “Two Hearts Beat as One” that I liked the slow-motion shots in that video because they allowed viewers to focus on each member of the band, but I can’t say that the slowed-down footage here has the same effect. In fact, I am unable to think of a reason for the slow-motion footage here other than the fact that Meiert Avis seemingly likes slow-motion.
We next see some shots of Edge, all bundled up in a cap and a heavy coat, trudging down a snowy road. At this point, the events on-screen begin to mirror the lyrics to the song somewhat, so at least it is easy to understand why what is being shown on screen is shown. For instance, when Bono sings “Carnival” at the start of the second verse, there is a shot of a carnival ride shown on the screen, and when he sings “through alcohol,” we see Bono holding a glass of what can be presumed to be liquor. Later in the video, there are some compelling shots of lightning over the city, and Bono singing next to a fire. There is also some video of Larry and Adam looking much more grown-up than we had seen them before; Adam, in particular, looks gruff and somber, with stubble and shorter hair. There is also a rare shot of Larry laughing and smiling, which is probably the best moment in this video. The video ends with all four band members walking through the snow, as a close-up shot of Bono looking forlornly off into the distance is shown atop the winter footage.
I hate saying anything negative about anything that U2 does, but this, in my opinion, is one of the worst videos that they have ever made. It just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, for one thing, and the idea of having Bono observing the other members of the band on the small television doesn’t come off as interestingly as the film-makers probably thought it would. That’s not to say that it is completely devoid of any enjoyment whatsoever, just that most of the videos the band has made have been better. I am sure that many of you disagree with that assessment, and I invite you to let me know all about your feelings on this video in the comments section below, or on Facebook. Thanks for reading.
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