As Prometheus is released worldwide in cinemas, Michael Weinzettl revisits the Prada commercial created by Ridley Scott.
Video: “Thunder Perfect Mind” (2005) for Prada by Ridley and Jordan Scott.
Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s much anticipated prequel to Alien is opening in the US this weekend, and has already been in most European cinemas for a week now, although Spain and Germany will have to wait till August to see it.
I remember watching the original Alien back in 1979 in a movie theatre in Osaka. What freaked me out even more than the action onscreen was the Japanese audience which kept giggling up a storm throughout the entire film - the pitch intensifying the scarier it got. I’ve wondered ever since if in Japanese culture, giggling was just the only acceptable form of showing one’s emotion in public which is why the audience around me resorted to it. Maybe a Japanese reader of this blog can finally, 33 years later, enlighten me on this point.
From what I’ve heard so far (and from film critics I somewhat trust) Prometheus is fairly good but not as good as Alien. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw said it was a counter-evolution of Alien, into something “more grandiose, more elaborate – but less interesting.”
We recently had a feature on the homepage about some of the sci-fi-themed commercials Ridley Scott has created over the course of his long career. We also featured the very smart trailer for Prometheus on our Facebook page, which took the actual form of a commercial for a company building robots.
While looking at Ridley Scott’s work in advertising from the past years, I came across a commercial from 2005 that really stood out but it was one that we had never featured in the magazine. The reason for that is simple: it had never been submitted.
The fashion business is a world to itself and if fashion brands don’t employ ad agencies but prefer to have their ads to be done in-house instead, it can sometimes be difficult for us to get hold of the work. Not that most fashion brand ads created in-house are outstanding enough as advertising to be of much interest to our readers: Mostly, if you’ve seen one, you’ve just about seen them all. This film, however, created by Ridley Scott together with his daughter Jordan for the launch of Prada’s first fragrance, is quite extraordinary and based on what is certainly the most unusual text ever featured in a perfume ad.
Miuccia Prada wanted to have the complexities of being a woman portrayed and Jordan Scott presented her with a text called "Thunder, Perfect Mind", a long feminist poem discovered among the Gnostic manuscripts buried at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945 and dating back to the second or third century AD.
It was part of scripts that were in fact “alternative” texts to what, at the end of the fourth century, became part of the canonical Bible, namely The Book of Revelation. This is of course is the final book of the New Testament and features perennial favourites such as scorpion-tailed locusts, the Whore of Babylon and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
“Thunder, Perfect Mind” takes the form of parallel strophes in which an immanent female divinity expounds her virtues and starts with the lines: I am the whore and the holy one. / I am the wife and the virgin. / I am the mother and the daughter. / I am the member of my mother. / I am the barren one/ and many are her sons. / I am she whose wedding is great, /and I have not taken a husband...
In the beautifully shot and edited Prada film, Canadian model Daria Werbowy moves through Berlin dressed in different, naturally spectacular, outfits while the lines of the poem are recited as a kind of narrative commentary.
The locations featured include a nightclub, a remaining part of the Wall, the view from the back of a taxi and the area around Potsdamer Platz, a newly developed urban space filled with hi-rise architecture in the place which after WWII and until after the Wall came down had been deserted wasteland, a no-man's land between East and West Berlin through which, in Wim Wender’s masterpiece “Wings of Desire” (1987), the old actor Curt Bois can be seen wandering, looking for remnants of the past.
The effect of all these connotations in the film is quite mesmerising and I guess Ridley Scott must be very proud of his daughter – who has since directed commercials for brands like Agent Provocateur, Armani Jeans and Credit Suisse as well as Cracks, her first feature film (2009) – to have come up with this idea.
Video: "Happy Birthday David" a viral film released in the build up to Ridley Scott's Prometheus.