Lady Gaga surprised Little Monsters the world over on Friday morning (Sept. 18) by dropping the colorful, enchanting video for the Chromatica track “911.” The clip was directed by Tarsem, best known for his award-winning, stunning work on R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” clip, as well as the 2000 Jennifer Lopez film The Cell. It opens with a masked Gaga laying in the middle of a desert, her face covered by a red cloth and pomegranates spread at her feet. She follows a mysterious figure in black astride a horse to a village, at which point the song’s insistent beat kicks in and things get very interesting.
Surrounded by figures in colorful robes — including one who repeatedly slams their head into a pillow on the ground — Gaga robotically sings the song’s lyrics as a woman in purple robes cradles a mummified figure. The clip is packed with the kind of daring fashion we’ve come to expect from Gaga, including a blue, gauzy dress topped by a complex golden mask with spikes jutting out of the singer’s face.
Later in the video she is flown like a kite by muscled, shirtless man and laid in front of a golden backboard as she cries out in pain, at which point the action shifts to the scene of an urban car crash site where paramedics are trying to save her life. A closer look reveals that all the characters from earlier are back in different forms, including the kite-flying man, who is now a medic saving Gaga’s life, with winking call-backs to the white sands, pomegranates and other visual signposts sprinkled throughout the preceding action.
The whole thing appears to be an homage to the obscure 1969 Soviet art movie The Color of Pomegranates from director Sergei Parajanov, itself a tribute to the 18th century Armenian poet Sayat-Nova. Like Tarsem’s treatment, that film eschews traditional narrative in favor of dramatic, colorful scenes packed with eye-catching symbolism.
In the current Billboard cover story, Gaga confirmed that she’d shot a video for the Chromatica track last month and that she “felt so alive making [the video], maybe more than at any other point” during the process of making her sixth solo album. “Freedom for me is when I can go to the darkest part of my heart, visit things that are hard and then leave them behind,” Gaga said about the dark place she goes to on the track. She performed the song during a medley at last month’s MTV VMAs.
Watch the “911” video below.