Justice – Stress – Music video analysis

Justice – Stress – Music video analysis

This music video analysis of Stress by the french band Justice is an abstract from our tutorial e-book 14 music videos.

Music video analysis
PDF, 133 pages

The video tells the story of a group of urban vandals.

  • Music video director: Romain Gavras

Stress music video – Shot by shot analysis

00:00 A black kid, shot from the back, wearing a pair of jeans and a jacket carrying the famous logo of Justice (a stylish christian cross) is walking in a wasteland in front of a dilapidated tower, somewhere in the suburbs. The first music notes match the title: very stressful. The kid seems to be cutting wild grass around him in an angry way.

World and characterization: this very punchy exposition scene does not lose one second in introducing us to the main theme: the rage of French, suburban kids, probably somewhere around Paris.

00:10 The music stops then starts again. This time we see 3 kids shot from the back, all of them wearing the same jacket with the cross logo. Shot of two black kids, then of two young Arabs, in abandoned, dirty, miserable, graffiti-sprayed places.

We continue the progressive revelation of the place of action and of those who are going to be its mean, evil Heroes – French teenagers, the sons of recent immigration.

00:17 Several shots make the synthesis – these teenagers walk together in the same direction. They stride out of a building and put their hoods up. They are now a gang of eight teenagers, walking in the middle of social housing towers, some of them armed with sticks and batons.

Structure: catalyst. This gang, progressively put together, becomes the collective Hero of a plot whose goal will consist in destroying everything in its path. We can easily understand it just by seeing the hostile air of these teenagers and their improvised weapons; typical of commons riots frequently seen in the media around the world (Sweden, USA, UK, France…), especially on television.

00:30 From his balcony, a black man, bare-chested, insults them and gives them the finger.

Characters: this man stands as a potential Antagonist, but as we immediately forget him, he will have only been a non-actantial character.

00:35 One of the black kids walks fast while hitting a grid with his metallic baton – we can hear its noise over the music.

Structure: this scene shows we just entered the plot development, Act II: serious things begin.

Intertextuality: this scene is probably a nod to the film-maker and to the artist of the video of Come to Daddy by Aphex Twin, which shows exactly the same shot (see the analysis of this video later on).

00:40 Shot of the 8 teenagers seen from the back, still walking in the middle of the surrounding tower blocks. They all have the same jacket with the same cross logo. They arrive to the metro.

Pattern repetition of the logo of Justice, which appears as a kind of cynical and provocative signature, as if these teenagers were acting in the name of the band.

World: we continue to explore the space of violent expression of these teenagers – the public space, the anonymous street, the modes of transport.

00:54 In sync with a peek of music intensity, one of the black teenagers starts spraying graffiti in a long red line. Another one bothers a quiet young woman. The first one continues spraying the wall and even a bystander. A few quick shots show this man getting angry, then the young woman fighting against her aggressor. The vandals now attack a young black man. Scenes of fighting and insults. The teenagers leave the metro station.

Structure: first true high action point of Act II.

Characters: these victims are the first ones of a long list of powerless Antagonists. Between the evil Heroes and their victims, the balance of power will permanently stay favorable to the Heroes.

01:18 They reappear outside, looking angry but doing nothing special.

Structure: these kind of pauses and low points allow the narrative to breathe and some suspense to build in the viewer’s mind.

01:34 They climb onto a bus. Shots of their hostile or indifferent, cold looks.

This direct and provocative look at the viewer contributes to a strong emotional impact.

01:49 A religious building at the top of a flight of steps. Two teenagers steal the camera of a tourist and throws it violently on the ground, breaking it. Passersby watch passively.

01:59 A fight starts. Screams, insults, jostling, confusion. One of the teenagers smashes a guitar then a djembe.

Structure: second high point of action in Act II. The Heroes meet their objectives, step by step. Since the general goal – destroying everything in their path – was never set as conditional, the viewer has no idea how and when their anger will end, if ever. As a result, we cannot calculate any ending to the story and are condemned to wait passively for the storm to pass by itself. Apparently, they want to destroy EVERYTHING, to fuck around with ANYONE, without pity.

Did you enjoy reading the beginning of this music video analysis? Do you want to read more?

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Then read our e-book: 14 Music Videos.

PDF, 133 pages
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