From the first scene of Madonna’s new video, “Frozen,” as the camera skims along a cracked, desiccated desert floor, the viewer knows this is no “Holiday.”
Within seconds, a raven-haired Madonna appears, sprawled on the ground in a medieval-looking black funereal dress. Her hands are covered in dark henna tattoos, with vine-like designs snaking around her fingers and an enigmatic symbol on one palm. In the song, Madonna is asking someone to open up emotionally, and she slowly gestures and sways her arms toward the sky in the video, desperately pleading to her cold lover.
“Frozen,” premiered Monday on MTV, introduces a sober, contemplative side of Madonna, revealing a mature mysticism that works for Madonna fan Tara Bruno, who is eagerly awaiting the release of Madonna’s new album, Ray of Life (Mar. 3). “It (“Frozen”) is not as upbeat as other things she’s done in the past,” says Bruno of Florham Park, N.J., “but it’s a more sophisticated sound, and I like that.”
Director Chris Cunningham, who also shot Aphex Twin’s “Come To Daddy” video, uses imagery seemingly inspired by Edgar Allan Poe. At one point Madonna falls, and as she hits the ground, she transforms into a flock of large, dark birds. A little later, she and her flowing, wind-blown dress morph into a large, black dog. For much of the video, she is seen twisting a billowing cape around her body; her movements are slow and sensual, but not sexual. At times, as many as three Madonnas, each in the same gloomy attire, appear walking and crawling amid the sterile, barren backdrop of wispy clouds and distant mountains.
As the song’s tension mounts, the sky darkens, and Madonna is lifted into the air, her dress blowing violently, her gestures more dire. Her form then changes to a shiny black liquid, which runs along the desert floor and appears to be absorbed by the tattooed hands of another Madonna, who is curled up on the crenellated ground. That’s where she remains for the video’s closing seconds, a desperate and melancholy figure, but not one without the hope that she will thaw her lover’s icy heart. [Tues., Feb. 17, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]