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Sia has been busy making new music for her Diplo and Labrinth collaboration LSD, but she somehow found the time to write music for another project: Brady Corbet’s Vox Lux.
Not your typical up-and-coming pop star movie, Vox Lux spans decades in the life of a young woman named Celeste who is juggling a scandal-ridden music career, a teenage daughter, and an overbearing manager. The first half of the film portrays young Celeste (played by Raffey Cassidy) moving forward after surviving a mass shooting as a teen to focus on her music career, aided by her song writing sister (Stacy Martin), and sleazy manager (Jude Law). The second part catches up with 31-year-old Celeste (played by Natalie Portman), who is barely holding her personal life and career together.
Rightly dubbed the anti-A Star Is Born, the film features music that has Sia’s signature sound, making it easy to see where Vox Lux got its eccentric pop aesthetic from, transferring Sia’s music video sensibilities to the big screen. Here are just some of the ways we think Vox Lux takes inspiration from Sia’s work.
While Willem Dafoe acts as an omniscient narrator throughout the movie, providing viewers with the characters’ thoughts, feelings, and background stories, without him, there would be very few words spoken. Much like a music video where dialogue is rare, Vox Lux uses visuals to communicate its message. We don’t need to hear from Celeste’s daughter what she thinks of her mother and we don’t need young Celeste to tell us what she things of seeing her sister and manager together—we know how the characters feel from the expression on their faces.
Every shot in Vox Lux is aesthetically pleasing from its angle to its direction that has been clearly well thought out by Corbet. In one scene, young Celeste and her future daughter’s father lay on a bed in the centre of a shot with their heads turned to the ceiling, the light casting perfectly shaped silhouettes on their faces as she talks about her feelings of surviving a mass shooting. While some film directors like Corbet make sure every shot is perfectly balanced, several music videos do the same. This is a standout with a handful of Sia’s videos, making sure the cultivated symmetry is in the balanced details.
Using striking, sometimes harsh, coloured lighting to add to a scene’s emotions is a constant in both music videos and films; Sia’s music video for “The Greatest” is a testament to this. In Vox Lux, Corbet bounces between a severe red light and a softer blue throughout the film contrasting the trauma that ensued after young Celeste was shot and her glittery performances on stage as a pop star. Sometimes he even uses no light at all, which can be just as dramatic, possibly even more so, during moments of passion or intensity.
As older Celeste says at one point in the film, she doesn’t want to think too hard; she just wants to make music that makes people feel good. When it comes to using sound to tell a story, music videos do it best and Vox Lux has followed suit. Besides the actual songs in the film, it’s the clacking of Celeste’s heels as she walks to stage or her heavy breathing as sister Eleanor comforts her that can invoke emotion in audiences and heighten the movie’s intensity without saying a single word.
Sia is an artist known for her out-there antics, quirky stage presence, and eccentric aesthetic—it can be unusual at times but fans love her for it anyways. Vox Lux is the same in which every choice doesn’t necessarily make sense. The gold masks and leather bustier for young Celeste’s first music video? Kind of a bit much. The constant narration from Willem Dafoe? Into it, but could also do without. Older Celeste’s recollection of making a deal with the devil? Strange, but mildly intriguing. As cinematic as the film may be, some of the aesthetic choices didn’t really serve the story. Sia’s music video for “Elastic Heart” doesn’t make sense either, but that doesn’t mean we appreciate it any less.