Depeche Mode and Anton Corbijn: Video Senses.

The creative, intriguing and visually stunning videos Depeche Mode and Anton Corbijn made together.

Continuing with the posts about favorite videos, this week I wanted to dig into a video that no matter what mood I am in it immediately makes me feel like dancing and letting go…it is also by a band I adore and one that we have not yet discussed here…a band I consider true pioneers and part of the music elite: Depeche Mode. What first caught my attention was the name of the band…I could not understand why a band that sang in English had a French Name…could not get my head around that..did not know if I was pronouncing that right and didn’t “get” the name at all. Today, I think it is one of the best band names out there. Turns out I was not the only one confused by this and there is a whole debate going on about the meaning of the name…some people think it means “fast fashion” but the winning definition is “Fashion News”. I think it suits the band, the music and Dave Gahan, the band´s lead singer. (I must say even though I don’t think he is cute, I have a HUGE crush on him).

I love writing this blog!! I chose my two favorite Depeche Mode videos and in order to write this post I was reading up on them and have just discovered they were both directed by the same guy! My initial plan was to write about “It´s no good” but I can´t talk about that video and not discuss another video that (when I really think about it) was probably one of the first videos I liked (not the just because of the song) but the video itself…I think it is a masterpiece, I am of course talking about their video for “Enjoy the Silence”. I would like to look at both of them and just basically continuously repeat how awesome they are…cool, right?

 Enjoy the Silence

From the album “Violator” (I won´t reveal the name of the thief that stole that album from me, but I remember who you are and you are going to have to answer to a higher authority for what you did). “Violator” was recorded in 1989 and released in 1990 and what an album to start a decade off with…it is an excellent album and I think sometimes overlooked. Containing hits like “World in my eyes”, “Halo” and “Little 15”, my favorite track is “Enjoy the Silence”. It was the band´s 24th UK single and won Best British Single at the 1991 BRIT awards. The song was written by Martin Gore (founding member of the band and main songwriter). The video was directed by Anton Corbijn (photographer, music video director and film director). Among his videos we find U2´s “One” video and Nirvana´s “Heart Shaped Box”.  For this video he was inspired by “The Little Prince” (Saint – Exúperry´s children´s book) and the thought of a king without a kingdom looking for a quiet place to sit.

Enjoy the silence

When I saw this video I was thirteen years old. Until that moment, every music video I had seen (with the exception of Michael Jackson´s) was mainly (or at least that is how I remember it) about the artist dancing around, or a live presentation somewhere and some of them told a love story, but this is the first video I recall that made me stop and think. It was a visual interpretation of the lyrics of the song, but it was not literal, it made a statement on its own…it still does. The colors are amazing, as is the imagery, and the director plays with the viewer with flashes of the “Violator” cover in different colors, allusive also to the “Rose” in the book.


I think the lyrics to the song are basically perfection…they are introspective and deep.

“Vows are spoken
To be broken
Feelings are intense
Words are trivial
Pleasures remain
So does the pain
Words are meaningless
And forgettable”

The song´s upbeat tempo generates a strange contrast, which somehow works. I think it is one of those videos that “sticks” in one´s mind, I know many people see the king walking on the snow, across the grass or next to the cliff by the sea and immediately recognize the song…how many other videos can you think of that leave a mark like that?

It´s no good

7 years after the video previously discussed, the band releases their second single for their album “Ultra”. The song is a great dance hit but it is first and foremost SEXY!

“I’m going to take my time
I have all the time in the world
To make you mine
It is written in the stars above
The gods decree
You’ll be right here by my side
Right next to me
You can run, but you cannot hide”

I think like the lyrics say, it is inevitable you are going to be hooked by it. There is no other option but to LOVE the song.

This time they went with a cheap lounge band look. I love how they make fun of themselves when the bar “host” introduces the song as “It´s too good”. I also do not understand why there are no awards for best acting by a musician in a video…David Gahan should win an honorary Oscar! He completely embodies the role, his suit is great, the gum chewing adds a touch of credibility and the hair is greasy and perfectly fit for the look.

it´s no good

We see the “band” perform in a bar where no one is listening to them and there are constant “fights” and people smashing bottles into other people´s heads. Then they leave and go to a place with a similar aesthetic:


The place turns out to be a Hotel called “Ultra”. Again Corbjin plays with the name of the album in the video.

Corbjin was born in the Netherlands and started his career as a music photographer. He has taken pictures of Joy Division, Depeche Mode, Tom Waits, David Bowie and Elvis Costello among others. And as mentioned before, he directed several music videos, but he reached his creative climax by working with Depeche. Depeche are an English electronic music band and one of the most successful ones (at least commercially) and they succeeded in winning me over also. I think they both embrace Kitsch aesthetic, with excessive sentiment and melodrama. They enjoy irony and manifest that in their creative union. The videos show a struggle (like the music itself) between color and darkness, happiness and despair, class and trash, and send a message of their own that compliments the songs and takes them to another level in the audiences image of them. They have also done other videos, such as “Suffer Well” (one of their best singles) the darker “In Your Room” and “World in My Eyes”.

I don’t know if Gahan´s personal struggles like his well known addiction to heroin and cocaine (which led him to an almost fatal overdose) are an active part of him being able to make his musical duality easy to relate to or if he has that sort of sensibility and that has led him to substance abuse, but I am glad he seems to be doing well and there are rumors they might release a new album this year. I have no idea if the director has dealt with the same issues, but I think his use of color and dimensions (like wide shots) in the videos, play with our senses. It is not just a hearing experience anymore, it transcends that. I can only wait for it and hope they reunite with Corbjin and see how they upgrade their game once more. There are not a lot of bands that have been around for over 36 years and still manage to innovate with every album. I know they are an electronic band, but in my opinion they are truly “rock stars”. I am ready to have them play with my senses once more.

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8 thoughts on “Depeche Mode and Anton Corbijn: Video Senses.

  1. Great blog, special place in my heart for DM. Love how they re-invent themselves with each album. A lot of “critics’ panned Delta Machine as old stuff re hashed but I loved it.
    Both of these videos are great, but I have to go with Enjoy the Silence (if I have to choose). That said, I could listen to DM all day and never tire of them.

    1. Hello Chrissy!
      Thank you for your comment!
      Oh, I definitely could not chose between them, I love them both, but I do think “Enjoy the Silence” is more popular and has more staying power…
      I agree with you, I could listen to them and never get tired! 🙂

  2. I think your album thief must be an international criminal as mine were swiped too! I think it’s time to call in Interpol.

    I can’t choose a favourite from these two videos.

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