Thursday, August 24, 2023

Domhnall Gleeson Falls into Hozier’s Purgatory in Music Video for ‘De Selby (Part 2)’

In stark contrast to the harrowing yet soft and acoustic folklore song that we heard in part one of Hozier’s opening song from his third album ‘Unreal Unearth’, ‘De Selby (Part 2)’ explodes from the end of its counterpart with heavy funky bass lines and disco inspired drums and robotic harmonies, this second part comes with darker lyrics over an upbeat instrumental and with a music video to match. 

The video starring Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson most known for his performances in hit movies such as ‘About Time’ ‘Ex Machina’ and the ‘Harry Potter’ franchise, takes viewers through the character of De Selby’s cycle of torture starting in a bar holding a shovel only to quickly shift to the character face down in the ground, covered in dirt and lost with only his shovel to accompany him on his journey to understand what happened to him, or rather what is happening to him. 

Through the beginning of the video we see flashes of our protagonist in the dirt, wandering empty cliff lands and beaches until he suddenly stops and flies into a fit of rage just as the song builds into its chorus and we see flashes of him digging a grave, dancing with his arms raised to the sky and  imagery of long portals slowly descending into the earth- only for De Selby to end up face down in the dirt again and enters the bar once more even more disheveled than the first time we see him. 

This cycle continues with De Selby becoming more and more unhinged and we see him lose his grip on reality dancing erratically and drinking pint after pint only for it to be revealed what he stopped and saw the first time was himself and the grave he was digging was also for himself. The video itself portrays a vicious cycle of self destruction where we see the character over and over again continuing the actions that land him back at the start and as he seemingly gets more drunk and loses his grip on reality more and more with each time the cycle restarts we see him act increasingly erratically until he decides to wade into the sea. It’s here we then again get the imagery of hands raised to the sky while the sea turns into a portal with De Selby in the middle is shown in the background. All of this, from the symbolism of the cycle as a punishment to the imagery of portals falls in line with Hozier’s aim to have this third album represent the circles of Hell.

While this video leaves a lot to personal interpretation with some seeing it as a punishment cycle, some seeing it as a symbolism for alcoholism and self-destructive actions Hozier, Gleeson and the video’s director Wolf James have done a superb job of bringing the audience into De Selby’s purgatory. Gleeson in particular does an astounding job at conveying a man losing his sanity using no words at all and the audience is left at the end with a harrowing scene of a very clean, much cleaner than we’ve ever seen him De Selby, sitting at his seat at the bar and staring into the camera almost as if he’s fully aware of the cycle he’s about to endure and knows he is destined to dig his own grave over and over again with no way out. 

While the music video follows this cycle of self-inflicted pain, the song itself follows a similar theme with Hozier singing about a toxic love and wanting to get away but ultimately always falling back into the cycle of being with this person. Singing about how he could be lost if he gets any closer to his lover and that he would fade away but wanting to do so if it will make his lover happy and a masochistic part of him believing he needs the self punishment of staying in this cycle. 

From both parts of the De Selby chronicle and the music video itself Hozier has solidified his ability to dive deep into his own mind and emotionally and spiritually move his audience creating not only art for his listeners but an experience.


Anna Jackson


Image: Hozier ‘Unreal Unearth’ Official Album Cover

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