Lana Del Rey ends Born To Die era with epic short film
It is already two years ago that Lana Del Rey broke through with her worldwide hit ‘Video Games’. The singer rose to fame when she posted the video to that song on her YouTube account. A few months later she released the commercially very successful album Born To Die. Last year, she re-released the record as Born To Die: The Paradise Edition, with eight new tracks. Three of these tracks, ‘Body Electric’, ‘Gods And Monsters’ and ‘Bel Air’ now feature in the short film Tropico, an epic finale to Lana Del Rey’s incredible Born To Die era.
The lengthy campaign for her debut album is officially over with the release of Tropico and Lana and her team can look back at a very successful period with huge sales for the album, sold out tours and hit singles like ‘Video Games’, ‘Summertime Sadness’, ‘Ride’ and ‘Young & Beautiful’, the soundtrack for the movie The Great Gatsby. The visuals in Lana Del Rey’s work have been an important part in the campaign. She released some of the greatest music video’s in recent years like ‘Born To Die’, the lengthy video for ‘Ride’ and of course the gorgeous ‘National Anthem’, in which she plays the role of Jackie Kennedy.
Tropico is a short film of 25 minutes long, directed by Anthony Mandler (with whom she worked on ‘National Anthem’ and ‘Ride’ as well), which is divided in three parts that are all built around one of the songs. Of course, Del Rey plays the biggest part in the movie, together with albino model Shaun Ross, who is casted as her love interest. The film starts out with John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Jesus in the garden of Eden. This is of course a reference to the lyrics of ‘Body Electric’, where Lana sings “Elvis is my daddy, Marilyn’s my mother, Jesus is my bestest friend”. Lana herself plays Eve in the seductive environment of Eden and ‘Body Electric’ is the perfect soundtrack to this sequence. The visuals are stunning and the movements of Lana and her Adam go along perfectly with the song. The transition from the Eden part, completed with thunder and lightning, happens when Eve and Adam both taste the apple, which is linked to the next part where Del Rey is a stripper and her boyfriend a gang member.
This part is set in modern day Los Angeles and of course the song ‘Gods And Monsters’, absolutely one of the best things Lana has done so far, is used in this environment. While Del Rey works as a stripper, her boyfriend plans to rob a group of business men who just invited a group of naked female dancers to their party. Once again, the editing is brilliant when gunshots are completely synchronised with the beats of the music. Just like the video’s for ‘National Anthem’ and ‘Ride’, the transition from the second to the last part in ‘Tropico’, features a monologue by Del Rey. Although it is always a pleasure to listen to her lovely speaking voice, the monologues in her earlier video’s were sharper and more moving, where the Tropico speaking bits are a bit lengthy and vague at times. The last part sees Del Rey and Ross leave their sinful life and Los Angeles to go to a silent and peaceful landscape full of golden hills. On their way, they leave all their costly possessions behind them and change their clothes from black to white. In white, they dance and hug their way through the hills which delivers some stunning shots. It is absolutely the perfect visual to accompany the atmospheric and romantic sound of ‘Bel Air’.
I am not meaning to give an explanation for all that happens in Tropico, as I believe everybody could have an own interpretation for this piece that is rich in metaphors and symbolism. What I would like to add is that Del Rey is absolutely the only pop star that I could think of that has been so effectively creating great visuals to accompany her atmospheric and filmic music. She has had such a clear vision of what she wanted to tell with everything that had to do with this Born To Die chapter in her career, which is absolutely impressive. In my eyes, everything from the music to the videos and her cover art and other photo shoots, have been perfection. It is a great relief to hear that she is no longer planning to retire after Tropico, but announced she is working on her second album Ultraviolence. I am already beyond excited to see what she will come up with next.