Kanye West's "Runaway" film, which premiered Saturday on MTV, is an artful arrangement of imagery. From the fallen phoenix all the way down to the marching Klansmen, it's overflowing with powerful, downright heavy set pieces, each positively dripping with symbolism and deeper meaning.
But what does it all mean? Well, you'd practically need a degree to figure it all out, and luckily, we found someone who does (or will very shortly): Jacqueline Cruz, who studies culture and media — with a focus on music — at the New School in New York City. And with her help, we decoded the imagery behind "Runaway," and, as she put it, there's a lot to take in.
"It was very expressive. You could tell he wanted people to feel it ... the imagery, the contrast — a lot of shots where it was black with a splash of red, he used a lot of warm colors contrasted against the dark images, so I thought that was strong, because red provokes angry emotions," Cruz said. "It showcases Kanye as an artist, addressing contemporary issues, like race and the different roles played in society."
Cruz singled out the film's lengthy dinner sequence — in which all of West's dinner guests are African-American (dressed in white) and the servants are Caucasian — as an example of "Runaway" tackling rather complex issues, and, of course, there's the matter of the phoenix herself, which serves a dual purpose in "Runaway." On one hand, she plays into the larger theme of man versus nature; and, on the other, she's a very pretty metaphor for Kanye's triumphant return to the spotlight.
"I think [she] embraces nature and how, in a sense, we're ignoring it. And how she has fallen and we are trying to civilize her, and she can't; it's destroying her. She's losing her wings. She's not really who she is," Cruz said. "[And] it relates to [West's] previous incidents, of him being burned in the media and him having to lose his dignity and his ego for him to represent what he really is as an artist, and I think that's a really strong statement."
To that end, "Runaway" is a success, because, as Cruz puts it, the film manages to be both hugely experimental and deeply personal — the kind of thing only someone like Kanye West could pull off.
"I think it's going to be around for a long time and it's going to spark up a lot of talk," she said. " 'Runaway' is about the fall of somebody and how you may change and you may try to conform to what's going on, but after you have fallen, you realize that it's not who you are, and it's not who you need to be; you need to be true to who you are ... it's definitely related to him."
What do you think of "Runaway"? Share your reviews in the comments!