Song by Roseanna Gamlen – Greene
Music Video by Naomi Shingler
A young woman laments on our lost connection with nature
- The abstract narrative is told to us through the perspective of the young woman, Roseanna, a character based on the actual singer of the song.
- Other people are seen throughout the piece, but are never individualised or solid. They are represented as shadowy figures, with no majorly defining facial or bodily features. This coincides with the lyrics the main protagonist, Roseanna, sings:
“Empty shells of people
Walk along the road
Their souls are shadows
They have no home.”
Even though they are meant to portray everyday people, citizens, they take on a slightly antagonistic role during the song. This is to help the audience reflect on who they are, and where they stand: with or against Roseanna.
- Roseanna’s Grandfather features as a minor character, and will be seen during the verse in which he is mentioned. The location will be one that recurs twice in the piece, an abstract place lost in time (literally a desert made of sand, forgotten possessions and mementos, and a large hourglass which is seen shattering). This is to emphasise the fact that he is dead, and that we are seeing him purely through the vision of Roseanna’s memories.
- Two different creatures are also seen throughout the piece, which feature more as an analogy or symbol than as characters: Birds = the essence of life and nature, absolute freedom. Butterflies = the beauty of life, and small moments. Fleeting, but precious.
Roseanna’s Explanation of ‘Birds’ Lyrics
“The inspiration for the song is that life is short, so appreciate the small things (like how beautiful nature is) and don’t leave life with regrets (i.e. “throw it away”)!
A lot of the inspiration definitely comes from nature because nature is one of the most important things in my life having grown up in the bush/near the ocean.
The empty shells of people is kind of referring to people who are materialistic and not living a meaningful life…I kind of imagine people walking along unhappily/depressed/empty… not acknowledging other people or nature.
The no regrets part kind of comes from a special experience I had with my Grandfa while I was writing the song; the last words he said to me in the hospital before he died were “make the most of it”.”
The animation opens with Roseanna’s name formed out of delicate ribbon. As we hear her pluck the open notes of the song, the coinciding guitar string appears and slices the ribbons. The camera follows the sliced bits of ribbon slowly downward as they fall, and as one of the pieces morphs into a bird. At that exact moment Roseanna begins singing the opening lyric and title of the song: “Birds”
As the bird forms and spreads its wings we follow it flying upward and to the right of the frame. Continuing in its flight, our viewing perspective slowly changes. And suddenly we are not watching the bird fly, but the reflection of the bird fly across Roseanna’s eye.
The bird continues its flight towards the right until Roseanna closes her eye, and the reflection is continued in the golden teardrop that falls from her close lid.
The teardrop slides off her face, which fades away into a sky, and we watch it as it falls steadily faster to the ground.
The teardrop hits grassy ground, clearly now in a wide open space, and the splash it creates breaks apart into multiple birds. Which form out of the splash and fly up and outwards, continuing the journey towards the right of the frame.
The camera follows their flight in the sky, as it slowly zooms out to reveal Roseanna watching them intently. The wind tugs at her hair in the direction they fly, subtly suggesting how she wishes she could join them. Music notes can also be seen flowing through the air and her hair, with the wind.
As the focus of the lyrics change, the camera rotates around her until we can now see her face. Her expression is happy and contented, eyes closed she feels one last bird fly past her and away to the left. A shadowy figure is seen shuffling along a concrete path behind her, with the impression it is wearing a baggy hoodie and some large headphones.
The camera moves past Roseanna till we are watching the figure in wide shot. The music notes flow towards him but bounce off, as if they have hit some barrier they cannot get through. The figure does not notice the birds, or the music, because they are too absorbed in their personal world created by the music in their headphones.
As Roseanna’s song moves into the next verse the scene slowly morphs into the abstract world of Roseanna’s thoughts and memories.
The figure turns to sand within a large building sized hourglass, and slowly falls into the lower chamber. The ‘sun’ in the ‘sky’ is like an old pocket watch, and the hands move in time with the beat of the music.
Sand blows by in the foreground as this happens, and sand-dunes are seen in all directions, an array of old objects/heirlooms/mementos can be seen scattered amongst them.
The sand has no entirely filled the lower chamber and the hourglass begins to crack from the pressure, eventually shattering.
The wind has now picked up and blows the sand and debris out of the hourglass in a dramatic swirling wind, and Roseanna can be seen chasing after it as she sings: “Can never be found again, lost forever”.
As Roseanna gives up the chase the camera rotates around her as she stands and sings the rest of the verse. The background is morphing into a typical grey city street behind her.
Roseanna’s position hasn’t changed so the transition is seamless as the camera zooms out to reveal she is now busking on the street in ‘reality’ as opposed to the internal memory world.
As the busking/chorus comes to a close the wind tugs at Roseanna’s hair again and she gazes down the road to where a bird is soaring.
Just as the lyrics pick up the next verse “Butterflies…” a butterfly flies into shot and lands on the previous shot of the street, creating ripples like a watery puddle till it is gone and we are now back to the natural environment from the start.
We watch as the butterfly continues upwards and to the right of the frame past Roseanna who is happily watching. There is a cut to a shot of the butterfly joining other butterflies in the sky, before the camera follows them back downwards to where Roseanna is standing.
The main butterfly lands on her outstretched hand and she smiles. But it is short lived as a large crowd of anonymous people appear wielding an array of modern cameras and smart phones, clearly eager to capture the moment. This is all relevant to the lyrics as the song continues.
We cut to a POV of Roseanna as she is surrounded and closes her hands around the butterfly and holding it protectively to her chest. Our attention is drawn to a large DSLR in the centre which takes a photo with a huge white flash.
This flash transitions the setting and we are taken back to Roseanna’s internal memory world with the shattered hourglass. An old broken DSLR is seen in the sand, right in the position that the one was in before the flash.
Roseanna’s legs are seen walking into the shot and past the broken camera, so we follow her as we zoom out to reveal an old hospital bed with an elderly man lying in it. Which Roseanna is clearly walking towards, and she takes a seat beside the bed.
The lyrics at this stage talk about her Grandfather: “My Grandfa’s last words Spoken by a man so strong He said make the most of it And I held his hand” So the audience will be able to make the connection between the visual imagery and the audio, to distinguish that this is her Grandfather who is clearly dead (re: “last words”).
The verse ends with a close up of Roseanna’s hand holding her Grandfathers. The old man’s hand slowly disintegrates to dust/sand, and blows away to join the endless desert of time. Roseanna’s hand starts strumming as the music picks up again, and her guitar gradually appears beneath her hand.
As it moves back into the chorus we have been moved back to the city street with Roseanna busking, same as before. The disintegration of the Grandfathers hand and the appearance of the guitar acting as a transition back into ‘reality’.
As the second round of the chorus comes to a close, the weather gradually changes and becomes dark and stormy. Rain starts to fall as we watch Roseanna pack up and begin to make her way down the road, which we saw her gaze at previously, except the bird is now gone.
The camera follows Roseanna as she makes her way down the street, shadowy figures holding electronic devices and shopping bags can be seen walking in the opposite direction towards and past her.
Their faces are projected out of their devices and are neutral emoticons, with blank expression and slight electronic flicker to them. This is seen from a POV from Roseanna’s perspective as she continues walking down the road and past them.
There is quite an eerie and haunting atmosphere to the silent people and Roseanna is visibly disturbed by what she is seeing and breaks into a slight run.
She continues running till she is well away from the crowd, and standing alone in the rain.
As she sings: “Their souls are shadows They have no home…” The environment around her fades to black and the rain goes away.
Roseanna looks downward in disappear, drops of water dripping from her soaked hair. It is so dark and sparse of detail that she appears to be in a cave.
As the final verse begins she slowly starts walking forward again and light begins to illuminate her face from above. She looks up towards the source and a natural opening can be seen with grass and vines poking in from some place above her.
We cut to a POV and can see a natural sunny day with blue sky and sun, the bird from the start flies across it gracefully.
We cut back to Roseanna within the cave as she looks down again noticing that her hands are in fists.
We cur to a close up of her hands as she opens them slowly, revealing the butterfly from earlier still alive.
It bats its wings and begins to fly as the song comes to an end and everything fades to black.