Classic films in music videos: “Express Yourself” by Madonna

This is September’s edition of Comet Over Hollywood’s film references in music videos.

metropolisMadonna has always mixed pop culture into her music and music videos- especially classic films:
-Frequently wearing clothing and bleached blond hairstyles reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe
-Paying homage to Monroe’s “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” number from “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1953) in her “Material Girl” music video.
-Listing several classic actresses in the lyrics of “Vogue” including Rita Hayworth, Bette Davis and Lana Turner.

Madonna’s 1989 music video for “Express Yourself” is no exception.

The music video pulls inspiration from the 1927 silent film “Metropolis.” Directed by Fritz Lang, the German Expressionist styled and futuristic film was a pioneer for the science fiction genre. In the film “Metropolis,” the futuristic city has a strong divide between the working class and the planners of the city.

Similarly in the music video, Madonna plays a glamorous lady with muscular men as her workers and she picks one of them to “express his self” with her. Futuristic like factories and skyscrapers with a German Expressionism tone are the backdrop.

A city scene from "Metropolis" and "Express Yourself."

A city scene from “Metropolis” and “Express Yourself.”

“All the imagery we wanted—and I had a few set ideas, for instance the cat and the idea of Metropolis,” Madonna said in an interview. “I definitely wanted to have that influence, that look on all the men—the workers, diligently, methodically working away.”

The music video ends with the phrase: “Without the Heart, there can be no understanding between the hand and the mind. This is a reference to a very similar quote from “Metropolis, “There can be no understanding between the hand and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator.”

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