U2 VidWorks – Please (Corbijn version)

The first promotional video for “Please” is quite different from the videos made for the Pop album before it. Unlike “Discotheque” and “”Staring at the Sun,” which are bright, colorful affairs, the Anton Corbijn directed video for “Please” is mostly in black and white, and even when it is in color, it is quite somber. The video starts out with an old man, a beggar, with a shaggy beard standing in the street between some small high-rise buildings. At first he is facing away from the camera, but when he turns around, we can see that there is a cardboard sign hung around his neck by a piece of string. The sign simply reads “Please.” The old man walks over to a corner and removes his wool cap, holding it out in front of him as if asking for passers-by to put money into the hat. We then see shots of various types of people — thugs, a business-woman, a biker in a leather jacket etc. — all on their knees. This footage is interspersed with close-ups of Bono singing the song. After some more footage of various types of people, we see a shot of a little girl on a scooter. What makes this shot stand out is that the little girl is not down on her knees, but rather is standing. I believe that this is intended to demonstrate that the innocent, the little girl, and those who live outside of regular society, such as the beggar, are the only ones who are unaffected by the constraints that have driven the other people to their knees. After some scenes of people walking down the street on their knees, we see the businessmen enter a house, where he is greeted by a woman with her hair in curlers, who we assume to be his wife. When the businessman enters the house, he moves to a standing position, while the wife falls to her knees. I think that this demonstrates the husband’s dominion over the wife, preventing her from living freely as she would otherwise. A man in a bishop’s hat walks by, on his knees, and peers into the window, where the couple we have just seen are shown, and the husband waves his hand over his wife’s head, demonstrating that she is on her knees, as the bishop wishes her to be. The camera then zooms to a shot of a statue of the Virgin Mary. It seems to me that this sequence is meant to show that religion is what is keeping these people down. After some more footage of people moving around in the streets on their knees, the viewer sees the old man fall to his knees, as everyone else rises to their feet. The palette shifts to color, and we finally see the rest of the band in a basement performing. I feel that this represents the “real world’ where people like the old beggar are at a clear disadvantage. Some of the thugs throw a rock through a window as Bono sings the song in front of some clouds and a blue sky. The band is showcased now through to the the musical climax of the song. Following this portion of film, at the end, things change back to black-and-white, and the old beggar rises into the air and flies away, dropping his sign to the ground. The final sequence of the video is of the little girl picking up the sign and placing it around her neck.

This is a deep and very thought-provoking video, like most of Corbijn’s work. I quite like this video because it has a meaning and a message other than just showcasing the band or the song. Please feel free to comment below and let me know your thoughts on this interesting piece of film.

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Ever since I realized as a kid, while poring over the liner notes of the Bob Marley - Songs of Freedom boxed set, that writing about music was a viable career choice, one of my greatest desires has been to write about U2. The band has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to contribute a little something to the fantastic online community that's been built around the band.

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