Singer Halsey has proven time and again that she is not just a typical musician and can’t be boxed into a stereotype. The award-winning star is versatile with their creativity and pushes the envelope to drive their message home. ‘If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power’ is a short film written and directed by the Grammy winner.
This feature is named after Halsey’s latest album of the same name, which marks their fourth studio album. The film’s imagery is full of references from the Late Medieval period boasting a modern-day twist that is absolutely stunning. The film confronts the thrill and terror of getting what one wants by exploring the labyrinth of sexuality and childbirth.
The new film was produced by Halsey’s long-time collaborators Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and joins other recent long-form explorations of recorded material such as Billie Eilish’s ‘Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles’ and ‘Star-Crossed’ from Kasey Musgraves.
The movie shows a heartbroken and heavily pregnant queen named Lila, played by Halsey, who looks down on her husband’s corpse, who seems like his meeting with the angel of death was a bit of a surprise. Interestingly, the singer shot the video while she was actually pregnant with her first child after suffering several miscarriages.
She eventually gave birth to a baby boy named Ender Ridley in July 2021 and has stated that they will have their whole belly tattooed once they are done having more children. Now back to the film, everyone in the court has their suspicious eyes fixed on the queen, whose focus is directed elsewhere. She is watching a witch in the mirror.
Halsey, as the ruling matriarch is dressed in her mourning attire at the funeral, she receives deathly stares from the late husband’s suspicious subjects. After the ceremony, her highness and close acquaintances drown their sorrows in the wine cellar and take joy rides into the dense woods. Lila encounters a mysterious sightless individual played by ‘Loki’ actress Sasha Lane who assists her through the initial blush of her pregnancy. Other stars in the film are Vuk Celebic and Brian Caspe.
Months pass by, and Lila’s due date, which happens to be her ill-fated day, draws near. If she gives birth to a baby boy, she is to face the guillotine, and the child be raised by the court. Before she actually delivers her child, she receives a visitor, the witch on the mirror whose involvement has seemingly guided the current events right from the beginning.
Halsey is a stunning goddess in this film. The fashion choices courtesy of celebrity designer Law Roach is exquisitely stylish. The couture ranges from black funeral finery, a turquoise and vermillion number built for expression to every color from gold to red, and in between is a delicious sight to relish. The sets are gorgeously draped. It is an absolute costume fest which is beautiful.
There are some nude instances in the film, especially when Queen Lila’s servants attend to her during a royal cleanse session in the royal bathing quarters. Also, after the conniving court terms her an outcast, she unburdens herself wholly of their regalia, and she is left only in her birthday suit.
The film is directed by Colin Tilley, which marks his film debut, and he is also the professional behind Halsey’s 2020 hit ‘Without Me.’ The visuals are immensely rich, bouncing between medieval influences from Italian paintings to a series of swords and elements of sorcery. The camera shines the spotlight on the singer donned in all the fabulous, classy, and expensive outfits accompanied by gorgeous jewelry on her equally gorgeous body.
The record itself has a crucial central theme. It is about walking the line between self-preservation and self-destruction, dominance, and constraint, as well as the excitement and fear of getting exactly what one wants. Instead of narrowing down into a specific form of representation, Halsey lets the horror of the body, the mind, and the aspect of mortality diffuse outward into the surrounding. The result is an intriguing visual spectacle that is both endearing and captivating.
The beginning of the film looks like it has been ripped straight from a fairy tale. The wind wooshes by, the piano is icy, a panoramic synth blur and a menacing beat setting the undercurrent of the record while the singer belts out about solitude and royalty. The producers played around pretty much with the various genres. The tunes are packed with texture, screeching sirens, and resounding screams, which makes it busy, something that can sometimes feel a bit distracting. The sound is at times coarse but not really shocking.
The lack of features makes the surrounding of the album feel a bit claustrophobic. This is mainly notable when they perform ‘Whispers,’ where the popstar criticizes her inner thoughts. Halsey is excellent in resolving their conflicting impulses and handling the self-assessment with unwavering brutality being the experienced songwriter she is. It is more or less what the singer has been trying to communicate since she started off in music; hence the collection doesn’t offer any new dimension per see.
However, among the numerous hits the superstar has penned over the years, this album seems to be the most resonating one. It gives viewers and listeners a chance to survey their inner self and reassess how to resolve their differing internal personas in order to move forward.
Halsey’s music is known for its gothic style, and while their sound mainly comes across as electronic pop, the lyrics say otherwise as she mashes pop and soul. Despite serving a promotional purpose for their new record, ‘If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power’ never loses hold of the vibes and modes of expression emanating from the creator at its center. It is a gorgeous fest that gives fashionistas and fans of the singer the chance to appreciate their unique style in terms of music, costumes, and set designs. It is definitely worth the watch.