Director Nash Edgerton's "short film" version of Bob Dylan's single "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'" debuted nationally at 10:15 Tuesday night on cable's IFC and the ifc.com website. Starring Amanda Aardsma and Joel Stoffer, it's a disturbing, somewhat realistic depiction of what could be the most abusive relationship in all of music videodom -- complete with a stabbing, a beating that draws blood and pronounced physical bruises, and a car assault on Stoffer by a vengeful Aardsma. It's an unflinching parade of violence (or the playing out of an abduction and escape, your choice) that serves as the backdrop to Dylan's sobering lyrics, and Edgerton's vision is an extremely wild interpretation -- if it even is one -- of the song's message. The debate will be on whether or not this video is an artful, gritty, jitter-camera'd study of domestic violence, an artsy depiction of being driven to extremes from living in a dead end town, or purely a piece of shameless exploitation. Considering Bob Dylan's past stirrings of the pot (that occur every decade or so), it should be no surprise to anyone that, most likely, it's all of the above.
With Together Through Life selling about 125,000 units and debuting at #1 on Billboard's album chart last week, certainly, Dylan has some capital to spend; it's just unclear if this should have been his first purchase. On the other hand, for those shocked by what they see in the video, you can't claim the visuals or storyline are inappropriate in the Dylan universe or lexicon. But it's also fair to say that no one could have expected this lensing of a song whose bleak lyrics trump hopelessness with love. The most "love" we get in this mini-feature involves a kiss after attempted murder -- unless you define its stream of physical abuses as misguided signs of affection. The vid's best/worst scene shows our victim dropping her keys in an attempted getaway, then instantly confronted by her torturer who, just one second earlier, was staring zombie-like with a knife wound from a building's second story window. Not exactly Alfred Hitchcock, but still pretty jarring. However one feels about the video, when Dylan is up to something intentionally different or bizarre like this, it sends a little shockwave through the culture. No doubt our tongues will wag on about it for a while, and it will be interesting to see what his next bigger, shinier bombshell will be. In the meantime, if you haven't seen the video already, brace yourself a little before checking it out. It will re-air on IFC through Thursday or you can watch the video clip here: