Oskar Hellqvist, a creative director at Stockholm agency Abby Priest, can sympathize with the troubled family depicted in his agency's new music video all too well.
Hellqvist helped develop the surreal film to raise awareness and funds for children with congenital heart defects. Two of his sons, Frans and Bo, were born with malformed aortic valves, which put their lives in peril and required surgery to correct.
Directed in the style of a disturbing dream by New Land's Marcus Ibanez, the clip features a cover of the The Knife's 2002 electronica track "Heartbeats," performed by Swedish band Amason. The mix incorporates actual heartbeats from Dante, a 1-year-old who suffers from three CHDs:
"The feeling of being completely powerless was too much to handle," Hellqvist recalls of his state of mind after Bo's birth last December. "I needed something to channel my frustration into. Something that would make some kind of difference. So, one night I sat down at the computer, found the Heartchild Foundation on Google, and created a pitch deck."
A few weeks later, he livestreamed Bo's heartbeat in digital out-of-home billboards and online banners to generate donations for the organization:
Planning for the music video began in the spring. The project launched on World Heart Day in September, with all revenue benefitting the Swedish Heartchild Foundation, which backs research and supports afflicted kids and their families.
"We wanted to create something that wasn't traditional advertising. Something that would move people and have them, at least for a minute, get a glimpse of what life can be like for these children and their families," says Hellqvist.
Filmed partly in black-and-white, the non-linear action takes place, fittingly enough, at a crossroads. Chest scarred from CHD surgery, a boy dances madly in the street as scenes of his tumultuous young life flash around him, creating a visual poem that ripples with fear, anxiety and hope. At the end, he drops to the ground, and we cut to footage of Dante's heartbeats being recorded in a music studio.
CHD is the most common birth defect, and Hellqvist wasn't the only member of the team with a personal stake in the assignment. "My niece was born in 2017 with a congenital heart defect, and I saw how it affected my brother's family," explains Ibanez, the video's director. "I wanted to tell the story of how it can affect people's relationships."
Hellqvist first saw Dante in a video on the Heartchild Foundation's Instagram account. His father played guitar and Dante hopped along to the music in a baby swing. That footage inspired the video.
Here's the album art:
The time-tripping narrative plays off the song's lyrics. Though "Heartbeats" tells a tale of domestic unrest, the words defy easy interpretation and mesh well with the images on screen. Here, the line "One night to push and scream" refers to childbirth, while a reference to "the colors red and blue" suggests the lights of an ultrasound machine. All the while, singer Amanda Bergman's rich, relaxed delivery plays over an icy, evocative soundscape.
Such elements, combined with the gyrations of youthful lead actor David Tengblad—who at times seems possessed by evil spirits—create an unsettling viewing experience. Of course, that's the point. This stuff's confounding and compelling, an edgy, elusive visual riddle that begs solving, and we're hard pressed to turn away.
"To me, it's all a story about fear and complete helplessness," Hellqvist says, "but also a story about hope and complete love for my two boys. ... In these strange times, I find hope for humanity, seeing how generous people can be" in donating their time and creativity.
Written By: Karin Dreijer & Olof Dreijer
Performed By: Amason
Heartbeat Sample: Dante Eriksson Svahn
Executive Producer: Pontus Winnberg
Music Supervisors: André Brink & Jonas Holst (Universal Music Publishing)
Production Company: New Land
Director: Marcus Ibanez
Executive Producer: Sophie Tamm Christensen, New Land
Producer: Ylva Axell, New Land
Director Of Photography: Erik Henriksson
Choreographer: Joakim Stephensson
Agency: Abby Priest
Creative Director: Oskar Hellqvist
Project Director/PR: Louise Lundqvist
Project Manager: Andreas Morne
PR Specialist: Johanna Lindberg
Production Manager: Louise Persson
Coordinator: Elin Albinsson
Copywriter: David Alledal
Art Director: Sebastian Brännén
Designer: Lukas Andersson
Creative Interns: Fredrik Moberg, Kristofer Englund