The Heart of the Matter (1989)
Lyrics :: Screen Captures

"Plot" Summary: This video consists of the presentation of several highly stylized visual images with a loose thematic connection. The visuals appear to me to be made up of three scenarios: a child and an old man - the old man despairing, the child a quiet observer; several people who appear to be on some kind of a chain gang - they have pick axes and are driven by an unseen taskmaster; Henley in a gothic-looking set on what looks to be a Victorian-era sofa, next to a candelabra. The physical connection between these scenarios, as far as I can tell, is twofold: a barbed-wire fence that the old man and child are mostly standing by, that surrounds the workers, and that Henley passes by to reach his set; and the primary colors with deep shading used to light/back everything.

One would assume that these images are intended to call forth emotion that matches the song, but I'm not sure they're successful. If I were to attempt an analysis, I'd say that the old man represents past hurt and resentment and the child a future without such baggage (at the end of the video, he is left for dead as the child walks away). The workers perhaps represent the human struggle, fraught with a sense of hopelessness and oppression. Henley's old-fashioned surroundings from different time periods might (and I emphasize MIGHT) signify him as an observer outside of time. This is just me guessing, though. I certainly don't pretend to be able to read the mind of the director or Henley (although I'm not sure how much he had to do with the video's visuals).

For me, the symbolism and visuals are overwrought and produce in me a sense of detachment rather than emotional connection. Perhaps this is because this is one of Henley's most emotionally powerful songs (in my humble opinion) due to its emphasis on moving past hurt to forgiveness, which is not what I get from this video's representations. For instance, the uplifting feeling of working towards conquering past demons as a gospel choir sings "Forgiveness" is not very well conveyed by a child leaving the dead body of an old man, symbolic or no. I'm sure other people might respond more positively to it, though.

What sells this video for me is the expressiveness of Henley's face whenever we see him - you'll note that I concentrate on that in the screen shots I made. The emotion of his face makes this video worth seeing.


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