For my last listening, I am focusing on probably the most popular aspect of Hozier’s Cherry Wine, his music videos. Hozier’s use of media through his two music videos of “Cherry Wine”, with one being from its initial release in 2013, and the second being his 2014 music video starring Saoirse Ronan. 

As mentioned in earlier posts, Hozier’s song plays upon the audience’s interpretations of the genre, hiding the dark meaning behind the song. But, when played with special attention to its lyrics, listeners can note that the song is not just a beautifully poetic indie-folk song, but rather, a song from the perspective of a male victim in an abusive relationship. This dynamic is captured in his original music video, in which the appearance disarms the audiences from heeding special attention to the lyrics. Hozier plays in a sunny abandoned warehouse, surrounded by background ambiance noises such as birds chirping and gentle breezes. With an intimate closeup on Hozier, a simple stool and microphone, and minimal film-editing or techniques, the video shows a beautifully intimate session of the peaceful song, changing the average listener’s impressions. As noted by many reviews of the song and its original video, people aren’t imagining an abusive relationship of violence and manipulation, but rather scenes of peasantry and relaxation. 

However, the second and now official music video release in 2016 tells a completely different message with its delivery. Saoirse Ronan plays a domestic abuse victim that spends the majority of the video appearing happily in love with her partner, engulfed in soft warm-toned lighting and surrounded by little details of their happy relationship. Interchangeably edited with scenes of Ronan looking contemplatively into her mirror, audiences are left wondering why the woman looks so sad as she seems to be in this happy situation? The answer is revealed halfway through when she begins to wipe makeup from her eye, revealing a dark blotchy bruise. This complete contrast to the light backdrop of Hozier’s music and the mise-en-scene is shocking to the viewer, and even more so when her partner arrives at her looking at her bruise in the mirror and sweeps her away into a loving kiss. The video ends with Ronan and her partner lovingly embracing each other as she puts on a smile (which appears to be a facade). Despite the abuse she’s received she will forgive him and stay with him, even despite the dark situations he puts her in. 

The music video pulls the rose-colored lens from Hozier’s composition, exposing the ugly story behind the poetic lyrics. Viewers can’t stop thinking of the stark bruise on her face, despite it being surrounded by gentle and loving moments, and it archives Hozier’s goal perfectly. Director Dearbhla Walsh and Hozier perfectly portray the perspective of a victim who is in the mindset of denial and emotional turmoil, with the video focusing not on the brief but intense moments of abuse, but rather the “good” times that surround them. Victims often deny the position of being abused purely out of love and nostalgia for the abuser’s “good” behavior and days, believing that so long as they outweigh or soothe the abusive moments, they are fine.

The video leaves viewers with the clearest and intimate looks of the inner thoughts and workings of a victim’s mind, and how the cycle of abuse is able to be continued. As Ronan said,

“I hope through the video and song we can shine a light on the issue and complexity of domestic abuse … and in doing so help those caught in the cycle of domestic violence.” -Saoirse Ronan

As Hozier’s “Cherry Wine” demonstrates on every level, domestic abuse isn’t ever the situation it’s perceived as from the outside. While an outside look may make it seem clear to understand and troubling, victims in the cycle of abuse have a depth of emotional and mental turmoil that often creates a rift between personal well-being and love for their partner. Just like Hozier’s composition for the song and its music videos, the dark and threatening underbelly of abuse is easily sugar-coated through the right portrayal and lens. A song is never just a song, and abuse is never just abuse.