Rabbit in your Headlights

Rabbit in your Headlights is a song by UNKLE, featuring vocals by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. Released in 1998, the video was made by Jonathan Glazer, who has also made videos for Massive Attack and Blur. These are all more-or-less indie bands, at least in spirit, so we might expect an ‘interpretative’, quite artistic, reading of the song which fits the indie ethos or ideology. It will probably be less reliant on the genre conventions we would expect to see in the more defined genres of rock, metal, chart pop and so on.

The video takes place in one location – a busy road ina  city, late at night. The darkness suits the vulnerable, minor key tone of the song. The main – only, really – character soon appears – a very disturbed man, wearing a heavy coat, walking up the middle of the road.

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He is captured in low, diagonal angles, suggesting that he is quite weird, off-balance, and intimidating. The palette is dull and dingy, again reinforcing the moody tone of the song. HE is talking to himself and we maintain a mid-shot focus on him by tracking the camera backwards as he walks, almost making (intimidating) direct address with us. The background is blurred out to make sure the audience keeps focused on this strange individual. We can hear him shout and hear the diegetic sound of the traffic above the music; the song is certainly not the only sound we can hear, and this makes the world or diegesis of the video more convincing. Likewise, we occasionally shift perspective or point of view, sometimes going inside the cars as they pass him.

When the first car hits him, it is a shock to the audience because it is filmed in a very wide shot which lets us see the whole thing. The foley sound of the smash adds to this effect.

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Our sympathise start to shift at this point; when the drivers drive past, looking down at the man without sympathy, we start to feel sorry for him.

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We start to realise that the narrative is based on a binary opposition between this man and the rest of the world, the ‘normal’ world represented by the drivers, cocooned within their cars. This is a conventional indie representation- the idea that the ‘independent’ people – those who are a bit strange or alternative – are victimised by the ‘straight’ members of society.

And yet, the man gets up, again and again, as he gets hit by more cars. He eventually throws his coat off and makes himself even more vulnerable. Throughout all of this, he is framed in the middle of the frame, while the cars are shown speeding past in blurred motion, suggesting that they are fast but transitory – only he is permanent, sharply rendered and memorable.

Eventually, he transcends, or disappears, holding his arms out in Christ-like cruciform.

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The idea appears to be that he has reached a higher level of consciousness through maintaining his own direction, his own way of being, rather than being like everyone else; he has managed to maintain his individuality. This is a very typical ideology in indie, rock and pop music (and indeed, it is one of the underpinning ideologies of Western culture.)

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