I love how much thought was put into Set Me Free Pt.2 MV. A lot of research was done before shooting and all the details are pieces of the same puzzle. The song, the lyrics, the choreo, the lighting and the set in itself are all part of the story.
This is what I see there. A
The MV starts directly with that powerful intro in the song. And the dancers do a terrific job of conveying this power but if you look closely, all the dancers are hiding their eyes when the song starts. They cannot see where they are, in darkness, and they are oppressed.
And while the dancers stay in that specific spot, their movements go forward before coming back to almost the same positions as when they began, hands open but back into darkness... like some kind of reboot, restart but different. Why?
Let's take a step back and look at the set.
We understood with the teaser, that the set is based on a panopticon (prison or institutional building which has a centralized plan and an observation post in the middle).
Voting for the panopticon idea!
Imagine you are in one of those prison cells and whatever you do, the guard in the middle tower can see you at any time, but you don't see them. That disturbing feeling of being watched all the time, whether it's true or not... Yeah, Set Me Free!
This MV set is based on the prison that was originally imagined and designed by Bentham in 1791.
If you want to read all about the design of the original building, I found a very interesting publication that perfectly fits the description of this set
The dead part is the rectangular region containing the governor’s house and the administrative offices. No windows towards the inside of the prison. No light but darkness, and the oppressing power controlling prisoners.
Do you see where lies darkness and oppression in the MV now?
That's when Jimin rises, still in darkness in the rectangular zone, and he looks back to the camera, in the direction of the dead part of the prison. Meanwhile, the dancers seem to have restrained hands, yet they look up towards the sky, towards freedom. Jimin faces that darkness
And he sings:
I got a good time
Yeah, time to get mine
I wandered into a maze
Hennessy and night
When he sings about wandering into a maze, there is a clear gesture to his head there, that all the dancers mimic too. That maze is in his head.
Interesting that with just three words "Hennessy and night" you get to feel the depth of how much he wandered into that personal maze. No need to spell it out into details.
Back to the MV. Jimin tells us:
I never stop, I never stop
I never stop, fuck all your opps
He may be struggling, just like the dancers struggling behind him. He may start over again and again, but he does not stop trying until he is free.
And he is still facing the same direction, where the dead part of the panopticon prison lies, where his oppressors are. "Fuck all you opps" he says to the camera. Yeah exactly!
While he sings "Finally free" , the dancers form a spiral, and start to move inwards. Their moves follow the spiritual metaphor of walking the path towards individuation, towards finding your true self (Jungian concept).
"The rotation of one pole is the beginning of individuation... it is probably basically a spiral rotation with a perpetual movement towards the nucleus" says Jung.
The mandala again with its circular path towards the center, towards individuation. Remember Persona golden ratio?
Ah, yeah, ah, yeah
I'm standing at the edge
Jimin takes the spiral path towards the center, the dancers are in phase with his words. But when we get to:
Not yet, not yet
I won't look back
The dancers turn halfway, as if halting their movement. Jimin's path is not complete yet...
But when we get to "Now yeah, now yeah", the dancers spin and go in the reverse direction.
We now have 3 visual phases:
spiral inwards - half turn - spiral outwards
Jimin found himself inside the spiral. It is time to unravel the rest of his own story and spiral outwards.
As we get to "Fly away, butterfly" we get a visual of the dancers' spiral flying away... I am blown by how much power those simple visuals support the whole story contained in the lyrics.
Fly away, butterfly
Now we get to the butterfly! This is another concept that is dear to me, the metaphor of the butterfly, and the path to the true self.
If you want to understand where that butterfly suddenly comes from, check this out.
Just read a very interesting article on the Butterfly metaphor.
How the transformation from the caterpillar to the butterfly is actually very hard for the caterpillar, that it actually dies for the transformation to take place.
There is no growth without pain...
A brief summary: the transformation of the caterpillar to the butterfly is the metaphor of the transformation, the growth to your true self. It is a painful path where you have to face your inner shadows and accept them, before moving forward in your life.
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” - Carl Jung
So we have no choice but to face sooner or later what scares us the most, that is, the unknown and our full responsibility for creating our own life.
This is the reason why, a lot of us felt that this MV was somehow connected to Shadow MV (apart from the director) and other songs and/or concepts.
The Map of the Soul journey did not end. It carries on. They individually now follow their own path to find their true selves.
While fingers point at him and dancers around look like a predatory form converging towards him, Jimin sings:
Look at me now
I won't hide anymore, even if it hurts
He tells the world to look at him, baring his true self, whether it hurts or not... and that is very brave of him.
Going insane to stay sane
Raise your hands for the past me
Remember ON lyrics?
Gotta go insane to stay sane
Yep, same. Almost the same clothes but white for ON and black for Set Me Free Pt.2. The choice of colors here speak volumes.
That Jimin in black is not yet free...
And Jimin repeats the same words over and over again, throughout the whole chorus:
Set Me Free
He runs forward, but he gets caught up and visually falls into darkness, in the same rectangular/dead part corresponding to darkness and oppression, leading us to the upcoming verse.
Lights come back and Jimin has partially shed his clothes revealing a poem directly written on his body. "Widening circles" is a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke.
"I live my life in widening circles" she says.
Remember that Jimin ended the previous verse spiraling outwards...
My interpretation is that since Jimin has found himself, faced his shadows and accepted them, he can now move forward into greater circles, reaching higher levels of consciousness, the highest potential of his own self... In short, going outwards to know what is within.
Now that he is fully aware of who he is, shadows included, and where he needs to go, nothing will hold him back. And the lyrics go:
I got feel low
Still in a maze
But I got no time to break soul
Just let me flow
Hey fool, just get out of my way
Shut up, fuck off
I'm on my way
Jimin knows that he has reached a point where he can confidently move forward.
"It's begun, my prime time"
The words "not yet" from the previous verse have disappeared. He moves on, or rather "hops on".
Light and darkness during the MV just like Jimin running forward and being held back by multiple hands are metaphors of darkness and oppression, be it in a virtual prison or the real world outside.
Still he says :
I won't stop, even if they mock me
And Jimin starts his mantra again in the chorus:
Set Me Free
Everyone looks at the open source of light at the top, as if asking whoever is there to set them free. There is still that restraint at the wrists feeling for the dances...
There is a turning point though.
With a last glance towards the camera, the predatory form (the dancers) converges towards Jimin and "devours" him.
If you read the thread about the butterfly metaphor, then you know that a metamorphosis is about to occur with this visual.
If you watched Interview with a vampire (1994), this part of the mv is similar to one scene. In a Paris theater, a bunch of vampires pretending to be humans pretending to be vampires (yes I know... ) devour a human being, shed of her clothes.
Great movie, traumatizing scene...
Back to the butterfly metaphor: the butterfly sheds its last envelope, breaking free, and the butterfly within rises.
Similarly, black Jimin disappears, the human envelope we see around him (the dancers) collapses and white butterfly Jimin rises.
The metamorphosis is complete.
I really enjoyed the whole MV. Visually it was so interesting to go through it, knowing the potential references hidden in it and unpacking them as I went along.
I hope you enjoyed my journey though it.
Now go watch the MV again!