A nocturne crime story inspired by and set to Burial's Rival Dealer.
In late December 2013 the elusive British musician William Bevan, aka Burial, published an unannounced EP, The Rival Dealer. The 10 minutes title track can ideally be divided into three “acts”: it starts with a melancholic vocal sample over an uptempo, crisp beat, followed by an intense and obsessive bassline, which finally rarefies in an almost-ambient climax, with dreamy synths and unexpected saxophone lines.
Perhaps it was this almost narrative structure of the song that inspired British director Ben Dawkins to make this short, a mere few months after its release.
Dealer narrates the anxiety-ridden, dangerous, crazy night of a drug dealer in London, and does so by perfectly combining the song that inspired it with the the protagonist’s story. Curtis’ nightmarish night sees him face menacing mafia bosses, small time criminals, hysterical costumers, violence and despair. He can only think about his family waiting for him at home, but there doesn’t seem to be a way out of the hallucinatory tunnel that is his life.
Burial’s song accompanies the story in its entirety, it determines its pace, at times frantic and others more dilated. Whether it lowers down to a whisper to make room for dialogue or it has a diegetic relevance (the club scene, perfectly constructed on the more rave-y part of the track), the song remains the real star of the short, on the same level of talented young actor Osi Okerafor and a breathtaking London by night. Cinematrography’s dark and contrasted tones, interrupted by sudden fluorescent and neon lights, are reminiscent Gaspar Noè’s works, while the obsessive rhythm and the general tone of the short owe a lot to Nicolas Winding Refn’s Pusher .
Made with Hyperdub‘s (Burial’s label) permission and blessing, “Dealer” is a great example of how the traditional short narrative is evolving into new and increasingly hybrid forms. It is not a music video, as it hasn’t been created to promote the song, but it does retain many of the genre’s features. It fluctuates constantly on line between videoclip and narrative, it can’t really be defined. Just like in the quintessential video, the images accompany the music perfectly, having been inspired by it, but the narrative is taken forward by the director, turning the short into something else, a piece of work that’s less canonic.
Ben Dawkins is an award-winning commercials director, he wrote and directed this short film that already became viral in just a few days from its online debut.
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