TROPICO is a 27-minutes short film, featuring 3 songs from the Paradise EP, titled “Body Electric”, “Gods and Monsters” and “Bel Air”. It is directed by Anthony Mandler – who also directed the music video for “Ride” and written by Lana Del Rey herself.
The film tells the tale of Adam and Eve, where Lana plays Eve in the film. There are 3 parts in the film – Eve in the Garden of Eden (first part) was banished down to Earth, in Los Angeles – to become a pole dancer (second part) and then the final part, she returned to Paradise after “serving her term” on Earth (?) There’re a number of scenes with (very) explicit content but those aren’t the only parts which represent the film as a whole.
Introducing… the characters:
The film starts out by placing a couple of Hollywood big shots, namely; Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and John Wayne; side by side with religious personae like Adam and Eve, Mary and even Jesus Christ himself. My impression of it – was it meant to associate Hollywood with the concept of sin in Christianity? Sometime ago, I remember reading about the controversy between Hollywood culture and its relation to the context of religion.
The first part of the film places much emphasis on the John Wayne character. He was regarded as God in the film, I thought. The prayers cited in the film was made in his name, instead of in God’s or Jesus’ name. Perhaps he makes a good representative of the Hollywood culture. Honestly, I didn’t know who John Wayne was when I watched the film for the first time – I had no impression of him in the old movies or teevee shows I’d watched or his voice in the oldies I’ve listened to. But the internet calls him the American Icon. Elvis and Marilyn had that title as well. I can’t think of anyone who could have represented America and Hollywood better than those 3.
The second part of the film – the lightning strikes after Eve ate the forbidden fruit and the next moment, you see Eve lying on the pole dance stage. She had money stuffed in her brief. Later, Lana recites the first and the last excerpts from the original poem by Walt Whitman, titled “I Sing the Body Electric“. There were a total of two poems which were cited in the film – the latter one being “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg. I want to read them again to figure out its relation to the scenes involved and its implication in the film, but it scares me to find myself getting lost in those words. Literature… I know little about it.
In L.A., she recites another monologue – in which this time, it originated from Lana herself.
“From being created in his likeness to being banished from 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, the land of gods and monsters. The in-between realm where only the choices made from your freewill will decide your soul’s final fate. Some poets called it the entrance to the underworld, but on some summer nights it could feel like paradise. Paradise lost.”
This excerpt doesn’t scare me so much because every word has a very literal meaning to it. In particular, I love this sentence – “The in-between realm where only the choices made from your freewill will decide your soul’s final fate”
I thought this sentence was very closely-correlated with the version of the Adam and Eve story that was told to me by a couple of friends when I was in Secondary School. I didn’t bother to read up Wikipedia or books to find out what really happened in that famous tale, they told me the forbidden fruit represents the knowledge.
When God puts Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, I suppose there was only one choice that was up to them to be made – whether to eat the forbidden fruit or not? I guess God made most of the decisions for them – how they’ll look like, how they’d dress, the food that was available in that garden, and even their companion (Eve had Adam as her companion – vice-versa) God has chosen for them, etc.
With knowledge, does it comes with freewill? Will it heighten our ability to make decisions on our own? Wrong decisions may be made and it comes with lessons learnt and more knowledge gained to make better decisions in the future.
When I asked my friend what’s so bad about having knowledge, isn’t it supposed to be good thing? They told me with it, comes temptations. To a certain extent, I agree to it now. Alittle bit. But if I was asked again if I think that Eve was wrong to eat that forbidden fruit, I’d likely still stick to the answer I had 3-4 years ago. Maybe I don’t know enough of the tale to make this sort of judgement because what I know about this is limit by what people are telling me. Maybe the forbidden fruit doesn’t just contain knowledge but something far more unethical. And I’ve got to read more about it.
The last part of the film is my favorite one! It priors both Adam and Eve’s return back to Paradise, which is a beautiful moment! This part features my favorite song from the EP; Bel Air.
This song isn’t exactly karaoke-friendly or ideal for anyone’s song cover. It’s either a make-or-break feeling you get after listening to the song – people will either love it to death or absolutely hate it. There’re barely any in-between feelings. But I feel that this is one of the few songs which is unique to just her voice.
In the film, it is set in a wheat field with warm, glistening beams of sunlight – non-scorching heat for sure! Lana gets dressed in a translucent white dress. Adam and Eve exit the convertible and dances lightheartedly, where dandelions waft past the field. There, with this music video for ‘Bel Air’, this concludes my write-up on TROPICO!
If the film interests you by any chance, you can watch it here, x