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Ireland’s Aoife McArdle has directed music videos for over five years, but this year she officially entered the daunting and exhilarating world of movies with her feature film debut, TIFF 2017’s Kissing Candice.
Kissing Candice is a visually stunning drama about Candice, a teenage girl who starts having vivid dreams about a mysterious boy who she later learns is Jacob, a former gang member who has trouble deciding whether or not to ditch his troublemaking friends for good.
If experimental films are your thing, then Kissing Candice is definitely the flick for you. The movie forces you to constantly question what’s real and what’s not, as Candice’s frequent seizures and hallucinations force you to doubt whether or not her situation is as dire as you’re led to believe. But luckily, Kissing Candice’s surreal nature gave McArdle the chance to transfer her music video sensibilities to the big screen. Here are just some of the ways we think Kissing Candice takes inspiration from music videos new and old.
With a few notable exceptions (e.g. Beyoncé and Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” or Macklemore’s recent “Glorious”), music videos usually don’t include much dialogue. Kissing Candice is by no means a silent film, but it definitely has a lot less talking than you might expect. Instead of using dialogue to tell her story, McArdle decides to visually communicate what her characters are thinking and feeling. Candice doesn’t say a word as she sinks down into a bathtub after a bad hallucination, for example, but her facial expression says it all.
From Demi Lovato’s “Sorry Not Sorry” to Rihanna’s “Work”, using severe red and blue lighting to make a scene look sexier or more mysterious has become something of a music video trope. C’mon, you know it’s true. McArdle uses the red and blue colour scheme all throughout Kissing Candice, usually during moments of passion or intensity.
McArdle’s mindful use of symmetrical shots is a big part of what makes Kissing Candice so visually pleasing. In one scene, a red air freshener hangs directly between Candice and Jacob while they sit in a car. In another scene, Candice lounges serenely on a blue lawn chair, surrounded by equal amounts of bright green grass on either side. Some film directors, including (and especially) Wes Anderson, go to great pains to make sure every shot is perfectly balanced. But several music video directors, including “Look What You Made Me Do”’s Joseph Kahn (remember the shot where Taylor’s arms are stretched out?) are increasingly starting to do the same thing.
When it comes to using sound to communicate a message or tell a story, music video directors are clearly the experts. Which is why McArdle was able to use noises as simple as a steady heartbeat or a phone ringing to regularly evoke emotions within the audience and ramp up the movie’s intensity.
As pretty as Kissing Candice is, we’ll be honest—some of the shots McArdle included didn’t really do anything to serve the story. Did we really need to see a shot of someone riding a horse? Or two straight minutes of Jacob’s gang dancing around their clubhouse? Either we’re missing something or McArdle just wanted to be aesthetic for the sake of being aesthetic—which, by the way, is totally fair. The “Total Eclipse of the Heart” music video makes no sense either, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still love it.