The video for Rihanna’s “Russian Roulette” is just as eerie as the song itself. In a preview that aired on German TV and stills that appeared on the fan site RihannaDaily.com, the singer is seen drowning, being shot at and imprisoned. Of course, there are scenes of her sitting at a table with a man seeing who can win the deadly game.
Director Anthony Mandler — who also helmed the singer’s “Wait Your Turn” clip — said the video is the perfect embodiment of the haunting ballad.
“I think that with this song and the meaning of this song and how loaded it all is, no pun intended, how much imagery and perhaps symbolism that is loaded in this song, the only way to do it was to do something that was visually challenging,” he told MTV News about the video, which premieres Friday (November 13) on “20/20.”
Mandler thought of the video as a metaphor for Rihanna’s very public life in the gossip pages, as opposed to a direct comment on her February assault by then-boyfriend Chris Brown.
“I think you can’t effect change unless you’re willing to take a risk,” he said. “You can’t get people to pay attention and understand unless you’re willing to push the limit and try new things. The song, this situation, everything is so frontloaded with so much gossip and so much media coverage and so many emotions and stories that if you don’t try to do something that is poetic and layered in symbolism, then you’re either running from the truth or you’re being too obvious with it.”
So, instead of literally telling the story of lovers in a dangerous game, Rihanna and Mandler decided to make that the subplot. “I think our objective was to run down our lane with it and to step out of the drama and the gossip,” he said. “To get deeper and be more symbolic.”