8 Music Videos You Didn't Realise Featured Poland
default, Iza Lach & Snoop Dogg, photo: promo materials, snoop_dogg_iza_lach_promo-1.jpg
Radiohead? Pharrell? It turns out the sights of Poland aren’t just for Polish musicians. In the eight music videos below, amongst other surprises, you’ll find a turquoise elephant that catches the eye of Snoop Lion, the world’s biggest figure of Jesus launching into space, and the city of Gdańsk pretending to be Paris.
A space-like terra incognita
Mark Pritchard - Beautiful People (Official Video) ft. Thom Yorke
A strange place ‘of which you’d never think lies in Poland’, that’s how the Polish weekly Polityka describes the scenery in the music video for Mark Pritchard’s 2016 song Beautiful People featuring Radiohead’s Thom Yorke on vocals. Indeed, even locals may have trouble identifying the filming location as it’s a remote one – the Stanisław Quarry in the Izera Mountains. Defunct since 2001, the quarry is the highest-lying site of its kind in the country, around 1,050 metres above sea level. The director, Poland’s Michał Marczak, most recently lauded for his All the Sleepless Nights which won Best Documentary at Sundance in 2016, made a tremendous job at presenting the post-industrial area as an eerie, space-like terra incognita. The viewer explores it following a solitary hero hidden behind a sort of digital mask.
(…) In this song I found a certain loneliness, a feeling of being lost, something distant and maybe somewhat unearthly even. (…) We don’t know if we’re on Earth or on some other planet. Is it a man that we see, or maybe some cyborg, robot or an alien?
Michał Marczak in an interview for Polityka
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Jew, I miss you!
Radiohead - I Promise
Thom Yorke must’ve liked what he saw in Michał Marczak’s clip for Beautiful People since the Polish director also created the music video for Radiohead’s I Promise, released in 2017. Much how one wouldn’t expect the mountainous scenery of the first video to necessarily be a Polish landscape, in the latter it’s not all that apparent which city has been caught on camera. The images really only hint that the night bus (an old-school Ikarus, once a very common sight in Poland) is driving through Warsaw. You don’t get the landmarks typically associated with Poland’s capital like the Palace of Culture or the Royal Castle. Instead, the video shows far less obvious choices including a brick wall in Brzeska Street with the sign ‘Tęsknie za tobą, Żydzie!’. The slogan which translates as ‘Jew, I miss you!’ was inscribed there as part of a socio-artistic project by Rafał Betlejewski, referencing Poland’s tragic history. The adman and artist painted the same sign in plenty of other places too:
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Snoop Lion & a turquoise elephant
Iza - "The One Who Leaves" (Official Video) Dir. by Snoop Lion
Quite surprisingly, another Polish wall plays a conspicuous part in a music video directed by Snoop Lion . In 2013 the noted rapper, better known as Snoop Dogg, created a clip for the Polish pop vocalist Iza Lach, in which a well-known mural depicts the city of Łódź. Painted on a tenement house in Uniwersytecka Street, the light-hearted image shows a green and turquoise elephant ridden by a student (a fitting choice given the building is used by the University of Łódź). The elephant is the work of the Etam Cru duo, graduates of the Łódź Academy of Fine Arts. They have made murals all around the world. For example, their piece in Rome shows a man having a coffee in… a dustbin, and has been dubbed by the local Il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper as one of the duo’s ‘surreal masterpieces’.
In Snoop Lion’s music video, shot entirely in Łódź, you can also see other murals in the city as well as Iza working on a song in a stylish apartment. She and Snoop started collaborating after the Pole won an online competition to remix of one of the rapper’s tunes.
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Christ the King & Seven Nation Army
Cassius, Pharell Williams - Go Up ft. Cat Power
In last year’s music video for the song Go Up by the house duo Cassius and hugely popular singer Pharrell Williams, an unexpected appearance is made by the Christ the King statue in Świebodzin, Poland. The Art Deco statue overlooking the small town is the biggest figure of Jesus in the world – including the mound on which it stands and the crown atop it, its height comes to 52.5 metres. In the clip, a brief view of the statue is mashed up with a shot of a launching spacecraft, along with various other snippets such as a ringing alarm clock, a ball bouncing off a tennis racket, and scantily-clad bodies.
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Even though some of the quick-changing imagery has sexual connotations, potentially upsetting to religious admirers of the Christ the King statue, there has been no scandal, neither in Poland nor abroad. That’s quite possibly because the music video in question (directed by the acclaimed Alex Courtes, who made the video for The White Stripes’ iconic Seven Nation Army) doesn’t actually seem to be in any way disrespectful.
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Longest song, shortest snippet
Queen - Innuendo (Official Video)
A short, unexpected snippet of Poland also appears in the 1990 music video for Queen’s Innuendo, directed by Jerry Hibbert and Rudi Dolezal. If you look closely around the 1 minute and 20 seconds mark, you’ll see helicopters flying over Warsaw’s Marszałkowska Street during a military parade organised back when Poland was still under the communist regime.
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It’s a fragment of a parade that took place in 1966. It doesn’t even last a full second, I doubt the musicians themselves knew this was Warsaw. The music video simply includes a compilation of strange, short shots.
Piotr Otrębski, an expert on Warsaw history and fan of Queen, for the Gazeta.pl website
Innuendo is one of the longest songs ever recorded by the famous band. Conversely the clip for it includes one of the shortest snippets of Poland’s capital ever to appear in a music video. Interestingly, the buildings caught on camera are still there and their surroundings haven’t changed all that much, so if you stand in the right spot you can get a view very similar to the one in the video – thankfully, minus the military choppers.
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Michael Jackson - Man In The Mirror (Official Video)
At the forum of zambrow.org, a website providing local news from Zambrów in Eastern Poland, you find the following post added in 2013 by someone with the username dana:
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Today I accidentally saw, for the first time, the music video for Michael Jackson’s ‘Man In The Mirror’ from 1987 or 1988. I was amazed at what I found in it.
The post’s author goes on to explain that her astonishment was caused by seeing the name of her quaint town appear in the famous singer’s clip.
The 1988 music video for Man in the Mirror, directed by Don Johnson, includes archival footage from important international events like the funeral of John F. Kennedy and a support march for Nelson Mandela. Significantly, it also shows the 1984 funeral of the Polish priest Jerzy Popiełuszko. The clergyman was an important leader of the anti-communist opposition, and was murdered by the regime’s secret service (Poland only freed itself of communism in 1989). His Warsaw funeral turned into a huge demonstration against the authorities, with hundreds of thousands attended. In the music video, you can briefly see a sign saying ‘Zambrów’ being carried by the funeral-goers, clearly a contingent from the town. The clip also shows the former Polish leader and Nobel Prize for Peace winner Lech Wałęsa.
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Passing through the cupboard
Editors - You Don't Know Love
In the autumn of 2009, the English post-punk revival band The Editors was on tour in Poland. On 23rd November, they played in Warsaw, then two days later in Kraków. Quite surprisingly, they decided to shoot a music video between the two dates. That’s when the clip for the song You Don’t Know Love was filmed on location at Alchemia, an atmospheric pub and concert venue in Kraków’s historical Jewish quarter of Kazimierz.
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Realised entirely within the unique interiors of the establishment (notice the nifty cupboard that acts as a doorway, a famed element of the place’s décor) the music video doesn’t include any of Kraków’s famous landmarks like St. Mary’s Tower or Wawel Castle. As in the case of Radiohead’s I Promise, it isn’t necessarily evident at first glance where the clip for You Don’t Know Love was filmed. It’s not the first time the popular Alchemia pub has been seen in a music video though: Moja Broń (‘My Weapon’), a 2003 song by the noted Polish jazz and rock group Voo Voo, was directed there by the aforementioned Michał Marczak.
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Gdańsk or Paris
Mersal - Maacho Tamil Video | Vijay, Kajal Aggarwal | A.R. Rahman
Let’s end with a non-English language example. The music video for the song Maacho was created to accompany the 2017 Indian Tamil-language feature film Mersal whose action takes place in India and Europe. The Bollywood-style video clip was shot in the coastal city of Gdańsk and this time there’s no doubt as to where the filming took place. Plenty of landmarks appear on screen, including the Old Town’s famous Neptune’s Fountain and the modern Baltic Arena stadium.
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Still, it seems the creators wanted the city to act as… Paris. According to the storyline, that’s where the protagonist, Doctor Maaran (played by Joseph Vijay), goes to when he visits Europe. The filmmakers decided to film Polish cities (Poznań makes an appearance too) instead of the actual French capital to cut costs. Interestingly, the song illustrated by the music video was composed by A. R. Rahman, who won two Oscars for his music for Slumdog Millionaire.
Author: Marek Kępa, June 2018
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