The cult inspirations behind Massive Attack’s new video

A horror film banned in the UK until 1999 provided the inspiration for the new cut starring Rosamund Pike

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Rosamund Pike in an awkward positon in “Voodoo In My Blood”

Midnight movie fans may have experienced a nagging sense of deja vu watching the spectacularly creepy video for Massive Attack’s “Voodoo in My Blood”, premiered on Wednesday. That’s because it was inspired by the notorious ‘subway scene’ in Possession, the eye-poppingly strange horror masterpiece from late Polish director Andrzej Żuławski, who passed away last week from cancer.

Surely the only so-called ‘video nasty’ to strike gold at Cannes (for Isabelle Adjani’s elegantly unhinged work in the lead role), the film was banned in the UK until 1999 ­– but that didn’t stop Ringan Ledwidge from snaffling it up at the tender age of 12. Now, the young horror fanatic-turned music video director has put his misspent youth to good use by using the film’s most famous sequence – along with other treasured cult references – as a jumping-off point for the Bristol trip hop legends’ latest video, aided by a fearless turn from Gone Girl star Rosamund Pike. Here, he talks us through some of his inspirations for the video, and why he felt like he was seeing something he “shouldn’t be seeing” during the shoot.

POSSESSION

I’m a huge fan of the film Possession. As a kid I was obsessed with (lead actress) Isabelle Adjani, and would watch absolutely anything with her in it. I must have discovered the film when I was about 12, and it absolutely blew my mind. That particular scene in the film is insane. It’s so riveting yet so disturbing at the same time, it’s so original and different and… strange. It’s still to this day a film I’ll implore anyone I see to go and watch it. I can’t believe the irony of the fact that the director died last week. It seems appropriate in a strange way that it’s come out when it has, as a celebration of what he did as a filmmaker. It’s quite special.

TECHNOLOGY

The lyrics on the track talk about voodoo and possession and so on, but (the way the idea for the video came about) was actually quite bizarre… I’d been thinking a lot about technology – about how it’s very seductive and sexy, but also very benign until you engage with it, and how that engagement takes over your life. In a funny way it is sort of like possession. I mean, I’m a big tech-head as well, but it kind of enthrals me and terrifies me in equal measure.

PHANTASM

(Along with Possession), Phantasm was another movie that just kind of sprung to mind for the video – without consciously seeking them out, they both seemed to resonate. So I used those films as a leaping-off point to try and create something different out of these two huge influences I had when I was a kid. With Phantasm, I wanted to use the intimidating orb thing (the sphere in the video looks a lot like the one that terrorises the cast in Don Coscarelli’s 1979 cult-classic horror) to represent this beautiful, sexy technology. And unbeknownst to me a lot of what Massive Attack were doing on their new record was exploring those themes of technology and how it affects us, so it must have connected with them.

ROSAMUND PIKE

It’s not a role that you would traditionally associate Rosamund with, quite often I think she hasn’t been given the chance to explore herself as an actress. Until recently you might have thought of her in a period movie or something like that, but then she did Gone Girl and you’re like, ‘Holy shit, she’s really capable of some dark stuff.’ So I thought if Rosamund really went for it, and went as balls-out mental as she would need to, she could be a really interesting, really surprising choice. She rehearsed for a couple of days with this great movement coach called Scarlet Mackmin who works with the National Theatre, she wanted to be really prepared for the part. When she came on set and we did the first full run-through it blew all the crew away. You hope it’s gonna be like that, but when you actually see it it’s kind of electrifying to watch. For an actress you’ve got to be brave, because you’re doing things that are gonna make you look ugly or weird in certain moments, and if you’re not committed it ends up not looking great. But she really nailed it – we built foam tile walls she could slam into, but she was still pretty bruised and exhausted by the end. It was disturbing and scary and sexy all at the same time. You felt like you were seeing something you shouldn’t really be seeing. 

70s COLOUR SCHEMES

We chose the Joe Strummer underpass at Edgware Road station to shoot in because I love the yellows, pinks and oranges down there, it’s almost like a sweet box. To me it felt like the colours kind of played against what was about to happen. I love 70s movies and I wanted to do a kind of John Cassavetes, Stanley Kubrick thing – the subway in Possession is much grimier, but I didn’t want it to be too dark, you have all these colours in there that you don’t naturally associate with horror. Which made it all the more disturbing, strangely.

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