‘Elastic Heart’ by Australian singer-songwriter Siawas originally recorded featuring Canadian PBR&B artist The Weeknd for the soundtrack of the 2013 American film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. It peaked at No. 7 on the New Zealand singles and was certified gold. It also appeared on Australian, Belgium and the United Kingdom music charts. A power ballad, it was well-received by critics and audiences alike with Chris Martins of Spin magazine commending that “Sia soared” and Bradley Stern of MuuMuse calling the collaboration “a perfectly chaotic combination”.
Watch the lyric video of Sia’s ‘Elastic Heart’ feat. The Weeknd & Diplo:
Sia recorded a solo version of ‘Elastic Heart’ which was re-released as a single from her album 1000 Forms of Fear accompanied by a music video featuring Shia LaBeouf and Maggie Ziegler, dance prodigy and Sia’s muse in ‘Chandelier’. Co-directed by Sia and choreographed by Ryan Heffington, the music video of ‘Elastic Heart’ has generated controversy due to content supposedly suggesting covert sexuality such as the choreography which has been deemed by a large section of viewers as carrying paedophilic themes considering the wide age gap between LaBeouf and Ziegler. The dance routine relies heavily on physical contact with the protagonists continuously wrestling and wrangling which is communicative of hysteria and unrest but has been directly interpreted as suggesting sexual violence.
Nowadays, it seems impossible for any artist to produce an original work of art without it being speculated upon by the paranoid-schizophrenic 21st century that stamps similar endeavours with the label of ‘moral degradation bearing social ramifications’ every chance it gets. Is it really that bizarre for two individuals to participate in an intense, emotionally-charged production without being implicated by society and convention based on their age and gender? The accusation is preposterous and specious.
Alternatively, perhaps, it is simply bored―lethargic and obese with the consumption of clichés that anything creative and inventive requires too much of a mental jerk to actually appreciate and therefore, is grossly simplified. ‘Elastic Heart’ could have easily avoided scrutiny had it just been another film in a parade of music videos―homogenous in theme and content―exhibiting female emotional endurance with a woman warbling about fortitude in the wake of a painful termination of a romantic relationship because God knows nobody seems to get enough of that. Clearly, a good chunk of the world is off its rocker.
Sia’s ‘Elastic Heart’ stages itself in an enormous cage installed in a large warehouse with white walls. Trapped and winded in the halt of a half-fought combat, and clad in tarnished nude outfits, the adversaries portrayed by Shia Labeouf and Maggie Ziegler proceed to brawl as Sia’s vocals erupt. The violent engagement of the two characters is expressed through wild, raving choreography, shown as they are to have been regressed to a primal human condition, their outrage and aggression manifesting in hysterical facial expressions and various body contortions.
Sia responded to the criticism in a Twitter post asserting her choice of actors in casting the music video and claiming that the two figures represent her own “warring…self-states”. Possibly, as Sia herself recognizes her duality, the action in the video is a metaphor for inner turmoil and discontent between two anarchic sides―the adult form and the child image―of the artist trying to overpower the other.Amidst the struggle, there are tender moments between LaBeouf and Ziegler that are emotionally cohesive despite both characters being rooted in dissimilarity.
Shia hanging from the ceiling of the cage drops around Ziegler, his muscular legs straddling her body limp with exhaustion. It is only in this physical proximity does he realize the damage done and moves closer with caution as if not to further hurt a wounded comrade. There is sympathy in it. An acute intimacy.
In a climactic scene, Ziegler runs out of the cage and it did occur to me for a second―before artistic sombreness/pretence descended over me―if she was small enough to get out of the cage, what was she there for in the first place? Kicks? Probably. She teases an enraged LaBeouf at this escape, his face flaming red, nerves bursting and tendons popping with mute screaming.But, a brave change of heart compels Ziegler to once again step inside to her spent opponent and climbing up his sturdy shoulders, bowed in defeat, wraps him in a strange embrace―a conclusion that offers a sort of reconciliation but is devoid of resolution. Next, the music ceases, so does the lyrical narration and the last minute of the song consists of vacuum silence as Ziegler attempts a failed rescue to save her unlikely ally.
The video of ‘Elastic Heart’ could be read as a depiction of the conflict between the innocence of childhood and the corrosion of spirit that comes with experience; our bodies warring physicalities fighting against distortions exacted by the passage of time. We are constant waves of change but a lot of that has less to do withacquiring or arriving somewhere but rather leaving behind of things, a certain kind of atrophy if you will. It is the artistic brilliance of the work that not just encapsulates an individual dilemma―such as one Sia herself contends―but, in fact, a pervading human condition.
Watch the music video of Sia’s solo version of ‘Elastic Heart’ below:
By Mahima Verma