Last week, Lana Del Rey debuted her highly anticipated short film Tropico at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood. Drastically raising the stakes on the growing trend of extended music videos, Tropico is a 27-minute feature written by Lana Del Rey and set to three songs (“Body Electric,” “Gods and Monsters,” and “Bel Air”) from the Paradise Edition of her album Born To Die. Tropico proves to be consistent with the underlying theme of her music, and brings the filtered, exaggerated visuals and interesting characters that have set her videos aside from the rest.
Her love interest is played by African-American albino model Shaun Ross. They begin the film in the garden of Eden, listening to the manifestos of John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and Jesus Christ, each sharing a piece of their virtues simultaneously in a prelude to “Body Electric.” Lana eventually takes a bite of the apple, and is led into a life of corruption for the next song, “Gods and Monsters.” Things take an interesting turn as she’s shown living a demoralized life as a stripper. Guns, drugs and violence are prevalent, and the scenes match up perfectly with the sinister and disturbing lyrics of the song. Using her poetry to transition between songs, she says “And so, from being created in his likeness to being banished for wanting to be too much like him, we were cast out. And the garden of Eden became the garden of evil. Los Angeles, the land of Gods and Monsters.” After a violent climax, the tension is lifted for the last song featured, “Bel Air.” Lana Del Rey and Shaun Ross are on a hillside in the sunset, seemingly having made it out of their life of corruption and back to a life of morality.
Although it’s not the first time an artist has referred to biblical scenarios or made lengthy videos to accompany their songs, it appears that Lana Del Rey has in fact stepped into unprecedented territory with Tropico. The story of the film seems to give explanation not only to the songs, but to Lana Del Rey’s entire persona. The image she’s portraying of a down-trodden free spirit is cohesive with her music, and the artistic qualities of Tropico still reflect the original music videos that she shot with a webcam before they went viral and launched her career. She announced at the premiere that she’s “visually closing a chapter” before releasing Ultra-Violence, her new album in progress.