Xavier Dolan Was the Perfect Choice to Direct Adele’s New IMAX Video ‘Hello’
“Hello,” the Grammy-winning singer’s first single since her 2012 Skyfall theme premiered today along with a brand new music video directed by the young filmmaker-actor Xavier Dolan. The only thing is, most people don’t know who Dolan is despite the acclaim he’s received in the film world. The 26-year-old French-Canadian has already made five feature films, served on the 2015 Cannes Film Festival jury and his 2014 film Mommy won the festival’s Jury Prize, an award he shared with with French legend Jean-Luc Godard.
Dolan is bound to become a household name in the U.S. in time, especially since he’s working with Jessica Chastain, Kit Harington, Kathy Bates and Susan Sarandon on his upcoming English-language debut The Life and Death of John F. Donovan. (But first, he’s working with Marion Cotillard, Léa Seydoux and Vincent Cassel in his next drama.) He’s also directed a controversial music video before with Indochine’s “College Boy.” Yet beyond the praise Dolan’s received, he’s also the ideal fit to direct an Adele video. If anyone knows how to capture heartbreak, longing, or the consuming power of emotion, it’s Dolan.
The gorgeous video for “Hello,” which was the very first to be shot on IMAX cameras, follows Adele reminiscing about a former lover (played by The Wire’s Tristan Wilds) at an old countryside house. As she sings a mournful apology to him, she walks through the Montreal woods as memories of two of them, both warm and painful, play on screen, all enameled in greenish and charcoal filters.
It’s a simple video, much like the song, which feels less imbued with overwhelming, piercing heartbreak than Adele’s previous hits (think the sob-worthy “Rolling in the Deep” or “Someone Like You”). But its the nuances of the “Hello” video that make the sorrow and loss of the song even more palpable. Dolan’s lingering close-ups tremble in and out of focus. The black-and-white flashbacks feel unreachable as the shadowy cinematography conceal part of Wilds’ face and body, like a stained memory trapped so far in the past. Then there’s the sweeping overhead shots, matching Adele’s booming vocals during the chorus. (He also manages to make the British singer look nothing short of fabulous in a fur coat with her hair blowing in the wind, but that’s mostly Adele being Adele.)
This knack for visually churning out emotion with music is nothing new to Dolan, though. Anyone familiar with the French-Canadian filmmaker knows how well he pairs music with some of his films’ most striking scenes, which play like music videos. In his second film, Heartbeats, he uses The Knife’s “Pass This On” in a scene where Dolan’s Nicolas and his best friend longingly watch the boy they love on a dancefloor.
In Laurence Anyways he uses Moderat’s “A New Error” in a fantastic sequence marking the rebirth of an old, yet far from dead, love. It’s a powerful turning point in the film when both main characters finally reconnect years later after Melvil Poupaud’s transwoman Laurence has transitioned and embraced herself.
In the final scene of Mommy (spoiler alert), Dolan uses Lana Del Rey’s “Born to Die” to great effect as Antoine-Olivier Pilon’s Steve escapes from a mental institution.
Dolan also uses Celine Dion’s “On ne change pas” and Oasis’ “Wonderwall” in two of Mommy‘s best scenes.
Here’s to hoping we get more music videos from Dolan in the future, or that people will at least start recognizing his name.