Viewers will find a lot to debate in Lana Del Rey’s new “Tropico” video in terms of interpreting the heavy symbolism that ripples through the 27-minute short film directed by Anthony Mandler. But the ambition in this extended morality play about love, lust and loss of innocence is hard to deny, as it invokes multiple religious and pop culture figures in exploring the extremes of human experience.
It opens with figures representing Jesus, Elvis Presley, John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe in a wide-open landscape that soon sets the stage for Del Rey and her albino love interest, played by Shaun Ross, to act out the bible’s Garden of Eden story.
The Adam-and-Eve scene flashes forward to a modern-day setting in which she’s an exotic dancer at a strip club where, naturally, scantily-clad twerking ensues; he’s a gang member who works as a clerk at a convenience store, where he agonizes over his beloved's line of work.
The narrative then shifts to a bachelor party for about a dozen well-to-do middle-aged males who hire several of the strippers as their entertainment, the raunchy celebrating quickly going south when Ross’ character and his cohorts show up with guns in hand.
In the midst of the mayhem, Del Rey gives one of several poetic recitations:
And so from being created in his likeness
To being banished for wanting to be too much like him
We were cast out
And the Garden of Eden transformed
Into the Garden of Evil
Los Angeles, the City of Angels
a land of gods and monsters
The in-between realm
where only the choices made from your free will
Will decide your soul’s final fate
Some poets call it the entrance to the underworld
But on some summer nights, it could feel like Paradise
Eventually, Del Rey and Ross land in a field of amber-waving grain where they take part in a baptismal ceremony that leads to a transcendent closing scene. Over the course of the three sections, Del Rey sings three songs from her “Born to Die -- Paradise Edition” album: “Body Electric,” “Gods and Monsters” and “Bel-Air.” Daniel Heath composed the atmospheric score.
Here’s a Vevo link to the video, which received its premiere Wednesday at the Cinerama Dome theater at the ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood. Pop & Hiss cannot embed the video because of a couple of F-bombs Del Rey drops and some R-rated sexual imagery: http://vevo.ly/rWCPxc