Sunday, May 1, 2011

Five Wounds: Video Trailer

The video above is an extremely abstract trailer for my novel Five Wounds, which is released this month in the US and the UK. The trailer is adapted from the 'Teaser' section of my website, and it consists of a sequence of twenty short phrases, which are displayed via twenty successive screens. Each screen uses two colours, out of a total of five: one for the text, and one for the background. In the book, and thus in the trailer, each of these five colours represents one of the five protagonists: blue for Gabriella; red for Cur; black for Cuckoo; silver for Magpie; gold for Crow.

Amateur statisticians may note when viewing these screens that the entire sequence represents every single possible combination of two of the five colours (excluding those combinations in which the same colour appears twice). The first few screens run through these combinations according to the order that they appear in the Five Wounds hand, after which the sequence progresses systematically. The lettering on each successive screen is in the same colour that appeared as the background in the previous screen. The logic of this progression is therefore not entirely dissimilar to the terza rima rhyme scheme used by Dante, which I described in a previous post.

The entire sequence of twenty screens is as follows:
1. Blue text on a red background: Get out while you still can.
2. Red on black: Don’t turn back.
3. Black on silver: You have to choose.
4. Silver on gold: Don’t move.
5. Gold on blue: You can’t win.
6. Blue on black: Run faster.
7. Black on red: I can’t keep up.
8. Red on blue: He’s right behind you.
9. Blue on silver: I don’t understand.
10. Silver on red: It’s your funeral.
11. Red on gold: It’s eating me up.
12. Gold on silver: I’m not your friend.
13. Silver on blue: Cut it off.
14. Blue on gold: I’m not like you.
15. Gold on red: Give up.
16. Red on silver: Dust to dust.
17. Silver on black: No-one will help you.
18. Black on gold: I’m not afraid.
19. Gold on black: Don’t scream.
20. Black on blue: Bet everything.

These short phrases - mottos or slogans - are rather banal when taken individually, since they are entirely without narrative context here, and they also use a restricted vocabulary, which is deliberately inexpressive. Individually, they are flat and affectless; but collectively they should give a sense of increasing menace and claustrophobia. This echoes the style of the book, which similarly lapses into flat, affectless tones during the most violent or disturbing episodes. The sequence itself is also a coded message. Each screen represents one of the five protagonists 'talking' to one of the other five, and, in doing so, revealing the way in which they understand their relationship to that other person. So the first screen, which says 'Get out while you still can', in blue letters on a red background, represents Gabriella talking to Cur; the second screen, 'Don't turn back', in red letters on a black background, represents Cur talking to Cuckoo; and so on, until the final screen, 'Bet everything', in black letters on a blue background, which represents Cuckoo talking to Gabriella. Like the heraldic coats-of-arms at the beginning of Five Wounds, the sequence is therefore a coded map of the book's contents.

The schematic nature of this exercise caused some problems. The sequence is in part derived from heraldry, but it ignores the heraldic 'rule of tincture', which forbids placing, for example, gold against silver, because with this and similar combinations it is difficult to distinguish the foreground from the background. However, since the sequence here must by definition include every possible combination of two of the five colours, it follows that it must break this rule. Moreover, the cross-hatched patterns under the pigments sometimes 'interfere' with the letter forms, making it difficult to read the text. The (imperfect) solution to this problem was to display the text for each screen in two states: first in empty white, with the letters reversed-out, and then in the relevant tincture, on the theory that at least one of these two states would be legible. It's not perfect, aesthetically, because of the legibility issue (compounded in this version by a noticeable image deterioration: the silent version is much cleaner visually).

Nonetheless, the sequence gives a flavour of Five Wounds, which also includes puzzles, riddles and allusions. Both the trailer and the book use text visually, as an element in the design, and both are structured according to hidden principles. But the trailer probably works better as commentary for those who have already seen the book than as an introduction for neophytes.

[Video credits: Painted textures by Dan Hallett; video created by Sarah Lyttle and Adam Hinshaw; concept and art direction by Jonathan Walker. Thanks to Peter Newman for permission to use an edited extract of one of his compositions as the soundtrack.]

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