The worlds of film and music can be so simpatico to the extent of being fraternal twins. This is why a format like music video can be jewel-like, when done correctly. Of course, nowadays most music videos look more like ads for Pier One or the lamest nightclubs in the world. But in the sea of mediocrity, one underground artist stands out and her name is Actually Huizenga.
I first found out about Actually when I discovered the music video for her song Don’t (from her self titled album, which is quite excellent, by the way) via Tumblr. One happenstance click and I was floored both by the music, which was very much in the mold of what I like to call “sin-synth”, but also by the video. Shot in Greece, it was both stunningly beautiful, with Actually looking like a sexual revenant in parts. The themes of power play, the beauty of lust and the darker recesses of human love and eroticism are ones that come up again and again in her work, but nowhere are they more strong than in her short film series, SoftRock.
Made in collaboration with uber-talented photographer and partner-in-crime/co-star, Socrates Mitsios, SoftRock eschews the safer sound of pop and focuses on a landscape that Huizenga has phrased as “snuff pop”. The first segment, SoftRock I, mainly centers around Huizenga and Mitsios. Fragments of coupling with hints of violence, all edited in a way like it’s the recollection of a memories of the dying. The soundtrack, a sonic collage consisting of scraps of musicality (including something that might be a sample from Burzum’s Dunkelheit) sewn in with borderline white noise, reflects the beautiful wrongness of it all.
The nightmare of Eros continues with SoftRock II, picking up where the first one left off. In addition to the figures of Mitsios and Huizenga, there are others spotted, including a thin brunette terrorized. The horror hinted at in the first one has grown both gothic and gritty, with images of Actually, wide-eyed and holding melting candles to scenes of queasy sexual aggression. It’s this combination that will undoubtedly throw off a lot of people, but the reason why it is so compelling and even pure is for that same reason. Human nature, all of its light and dark facets can be alternately glowing and greasy, which is demonstrated so strikingly here.
Rounding off the initial trilogy is SoftRock III, with everything that was brewing in the first two come to a head. For starters, there are the repeated scenes inter-threaded throughout of Actually running naked through a wooded area, mouth red with blood, looking all but like a heroine from a Jean Rollin film. The sexual violence aspects come up alongside this, all playing out like a pagan ceremony gone awry. Yet amidst all the darkness and depravity, one of the last images is also one of the sweetest, revealing a message of love in a sea of lurid drives and dark intention.
SoftRock stands out for a number of reasons. For starters, it’s highly unusual to see an artist from a pop music background not only get directly involved with film making (right down to the editing) but on top of that, create something that by its very DNA is going to alienate most mainstream audiences. Even better, the power couple of Huizenga and Mitsios have created something entirely arty and uncompromising. It’s a feverish nightmare chock full of rich colors, grainy footage that looks like an outtake from Fleshworld magazine, but with love, fear and exorcism thrown in for good measure. With rumors of a fourth installment, not to mention news that Actually is working on follow up to her debut album, it will be exciting to see what future art emerges. Whatever shape it takes, like a lipstick smear on a cocktail glass, it will be evocative, a little sleazy and hard to erase.