You’re all right, Timberlake. Sure, I might have scorned you back during your breakout years, when my sixth grade crush would divert her attentions to magazine clippings of your ramen tresses. But the JT of late has amounted to much more than his boy band roots might have suggested: he’s a bona fide artist.
Justin Timberlake’s newest accomplishment comes in the form of a music video for his 20/20 Experience track “Mirrors,” a song meant to pay tribute to the 63-year marriage of Timberlake’s grandparents Sadie and William Bomar — the latter of whom passed away in 2012 — as well as his new wife, Jessica Biel.
Video and film director Floria Sigismondi, who helmed the biographical drama The Runaways, visits Timberlake’s story via a variety of vantage points. The “Mirrors” music video, which you can watch below, chauffeurs the viewer through straightforward depictions of the meeting and lasting relationship of Sadie and William, time jumps juxtaposing the young and old versions of the couple, and a slew of perplexing images pinpointing their shared emotional experiences.
And although the emotion is palpable, you’re bound to be left wondering what a good deal of the video means. A few choice scenes stick out in our heads, with questions ringing loudly:
Here, we see an elderly Sadie (or, the video’s adaptation of Sadie) folding and packing the articles of a man’s suit as William stands and moves parallel to her. Is he literally with her at this point, or has he already passed on and the man here only represents the essence of a husband who will stay with his wife long past his earthly life?
A bit easier to apprehend is the initial union of Sadie and William — an archetypal 1950s scene, with pool being shot, jukeboxes being leaned upon, hairstyles being maintained apparently without the use of any reflective glass.
Shortly after we find ourselves appreciating the connection between the Sadie and William surrogates, we’re treated to the consummation of their relationship… but beyond that, we’re treated to the above shot of Sadie clutching her shirtless stomach. On a bed, no less, right next to her sprawled out mate. That’s cinematic shorthand for pregnancy…
So why, then, are we never introduced to a baby? We’re not here to make any suggestions about the actual hurdles that the real Sadie and William faced — we can expect that Timberlake and Sigismondi took some creative liberties with the story for the video. In a follow-up shot the vivid sorrow is piercing and our minds jump to the worst: Miscarriage. Infertility. The sort of nightmares that this concrete couple wages together. And when the realism of this hardship translates to the near fantastical notion that these two people can, will, and are meant to be together forever, we enter the dream sequence…
And here’s where a few more brows are likely to spring up a few degrees. The video’s heroes enter a carnival world, traversing through the domains of fun house mirrors, circus-strong men, and the masquerade creatures we see above. You might have to dive deep into your Freudian theory to extrapolate exactly what “Mirrors” is representing here — the pair holding fast against a world of distant strangers? The power of their love launching their relationship to otherworldly levels ? Did they just go to a bunch of carnivals together?
Probably the most visually resounding shot in the entire video is the above: a gypsy-type’s bestowal of a slide of photo booth photographs, which she pulled from inside her mouth, of the old Sadie and William unto the young Sadie and William. Again, go nuts with your theories, here; is this fate telling the pair that they will, in fact, stay together through the decades to come? Is this Timberlake and Sigismondi’s means of showcasing the passage of time for the adherent couple?
Back to a more straightforward image: the wedding dress, though hardly delivered in a straightforward way. There is something terribly haunting about the video’s choice to make its Sadie a mannequin upon the first mention of the pair’s wedding. Is the union robbing something from her — her humanity, her independence? Or is this simply a probing method of introducing the next chapter of the narrative?
Two-thirds into the video, we meet Timberlake. A clutch of his grandparents’ dropped wedding ring (symbolizing, almost certainly, William’s death), his subsequent dance through the fun house hall, and a final shot of him glaring into the eyes of a mirror that wavers between his reflection and the image of a translucent circus performer with a moreover obscured face.
The second half of the video, the conclusive scenes especially, leave us with a lot of contextual questions. But pervading through our bewilderment is an emotionally piercing love story, delivered by an artist with more of an appreciation for the human heart than we might give him credit for.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter
[Photo Credit: RCA Records(8)]