Swedish-American indie pop trio Miike Snow are dropping their appropriately-titled third album, III, in March, and just released the music video for their impossibly-catchy single, “Genghis Khan.” It’s one of the most fun videos we’ve seen a long time, and focuses on the inner turmoil of a surprisingly sympathetic villain in a very James Bond-esque world. It features Mad Men interiors, quirky dance moves, and an amazing twist ending that we refuse to spoil. We got to do a Q&A with its director, Ninian Doff, who’s also directed clips for the likes of the Chemical Brothers, Graham Coxon, and Mykki Blanco.
The Creators Project: Was there any particular reason that you decided to center the plot around the "villain" rather than the hero?
Ninian Doff: It all came from the song. It’s pretty much a perfect pop song and insanely catchy, yet causes you to chirpily sing “I get a little bit Genghis Khan” out loud all day. I thought it was really funny and clever that they managed to reference a man who was responsible for the death of about 40 million people in a happy sing along love song (or what might initially seem to be a love song). So that got me thinking about evil people falling in love which led to me thinking about the archetypal movie “baddy” having to deal with human emotions. So my ideas were never on the side of the goody - didn’t even cross my mind, goody’s are pretty boring.
Between media like The Man in the High Castle and much of contemporary political discourse (in the States, at least), it seems like we're thinking about fascism these days a lot more than we used to. And so much theorizing about fascist leaders focuses on ideas of their thwarted passions and repressed longings. Is the fascist imagery in the video at all influenced by or commenting on politics or popular culture?
I wasn’t ever trying to make any huge political statement, but having said that this was written and made at the tail end of 2015 and I do remember very strongly feeling that I want to put positivity out into the world rather than make it any grittier and miserable. As corny as it is, by the end of 2015 a “make love not war” message felt very welcome.
I do find dictators and their eccentricities fascinating though. All scary dictators rely entirely on a hugely theatrical image: Mussolini hired a body double to sit by the window deep into the night writing, whilst he went to bed early, so people would see his silhouette and think he was always hard at work. So in wanting to keep surprising the viewer and subvert the traditional movie bad guy I loved the thought of seeing him leave “work” and having to deal with normality. There’s the great Bob Dylan line “even the president of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked.” I loved the thought of a theatrical bad guy once he’s left the lair. That’s why it was fun to have him go home to a small apartment and a failing marriage!
Although, I’m writing this answer the same morning that the Donald Trump dance performance has come out and to be honest it’s a way better piece of cutting satire on fascist symbolism, political propaganda and rally’s then I ever could’ve managed. He inadvertently made the music video of the year.
With a cliffhanger ending like that, will we be getting a sequel?
Ha! Although it is a sort of cliffhanger it is also a pretty tidy conclusion to our little story. The wrath that the wife is going to let rain down on the world can be in the viewer's imagination.
To learn more about Ninian Doff, click here.