Lady Gaga‘s “Applause” video is the kind of uniquely Gaga video, full of eye-popping imagery and layered with meaning, that it’s easy to assume her Little Monsters have been trying to dissect some of those crazy moments all day.
So, while fans might find their own meanings in the visual, MTV News spoke to Inez van Lamsweerde, one half of the directing duo Inez & Vinoodh, about the video. “She’ll do anything in this video to make her audience happy and give them inspiration,” Inez said on the phone, hours after the premiere, noting that she and Vinoodh were inspired by silent movies and early horror films. “We wanted to bring it back to a very basic element.”
She added, “There were all these kinds of, let’s say, tricks in there, but then the big idea was really to have her symbolize this moment of her hip breaking . That’s why she’s sort of holding up her right leg as a trophy and this idea that no matter what it takes, she’ll get back onstage.”
Inez broke down the video’s key scenes for MTV News.
The Clam Bikini
She explained that “we were extremely inspired by Botticelli’s painting,” for that look where Gaga appears in a clam shell bikini, her curls cascading around her shoulders. She added “[We were also inspired by] having this idea that she goes through this struggle to go back onstage, which is in that pink laser tower. And she’s sort of dragging that leg as a trophy and making it back on stage as a fully-realized, complete new person and that’s why the Botticelli came to mind.”
The Black Swan
The scene where Gaga’s head appears on a black swan was not inspired by the Darren Aronofsky film, but instead more by Gaga’s fascination with eggs . “She’s always had the egg reference in her work and since this video is kind of about a rebirth and at the end there’s the Botticelli ‘Birth of Venus’ reference, so we said, ‘OK, an egg… a fur egg and what comes out of a fur egg?’ In our minds, a black swan with her face on it,” Inez said.
That Other Bikini
For a song like “Applause,” the directors knew they needed a way to get hands in there so they found the most unexpected way to do it. She said, “The glove-kini! That’s Brandon Maxwell, her fashion director that had that made. The song’s called ‘Applause.’ There had to be hands.”
Inez explained the fashion show was all Gaga’s idea. “She always had it in her head that she wanted to do a fashion show, where she would be flying instead of walking. She always been incredibly inspired by fashion and its energy, so it felt extremely [right] to have that part of her life represented,” she said, noting the crew knew they wanted her in Galliano for that scene.
While much of the video verges on the wacky, it’s held together by scenes where Gaga writhes around on her bed.
“Originally it was meant to be a tiny vignette in the video that would look back at a past time in her life when she was fresh out of school and living in the Lower East Side and dreamt of whatever her future would be,” Inez explained. “And that was there to represent that. She used to have that kind of hair when she was 18, 19, so we said that’s that past moment. When we started shooting it, it felt so great we said ‘Let’s do the whole song on this mattress and do the choreography laying down.’ And she performed so incredibly it felt [like] such a real, raw feeling. It made it as the thread through the whole video. That’s the real and the rest is sort of the dreams she had.”