Muse “Hysteria” (2004/3:47)

Muse “Hysteria”


“Hysteria” was the first US video off British rock trio Muse’s fourth full-length Absolution, which debuted at #1 in the UK and France album charts. Matt Kirby had directed a narrative video for the song that didn’t show the band at all; unsurprisingly, it was deemed unsuitable for the US market and led to Warner Bros commissioning a second one. Propelled by the single and video, Absolution was Muse’s first album to chart in the US.

The anthemic song deals with the mental state of desperate, spiraling longing. In the video, the band is playing inside a metaphorical head, amidst a bombardment of imagery. In the verses, we see fragmented thoughts, memories, dreams and observations, cut almost randomly to suggest an obsessive-compulsive train of thought. In the choruses and the solo, the hymnic release of the music is expressed through vaguely medical macro-images of blood rushing through vessels, or synapses chasing through nerve nets.

The imagery is pulled from puzzles and mental games, books on psychoanalysis, abstract expressionism and mid-century visual communication theory.

We filmed the band in Toronto, on an off day during the band’s “Curiosa Festival” tour, headlined by The Cure.

I then spent four weeks with the artists in Brand New School’s New York office to animate and composite the imagery together with the band footage. The video builds up from flat black-and white graphics projected behind the band, to CG-made shapes floating through the space, before culminating in a red wash draining down. Here’s the animation guide I put together, using scrap imagery:

In 2005, “Hysteria” won the ‘Best Effects’ category at the 14th Annual MVPA Awards.


Client: Warner Bros Records
Video Commissioner: Lydia Sarno
A&R Manager: Perry Watts-Russell

Shot on stage in Toronto

Production/US: Partizan Entertainment, Los Angeles
Director: Jens Gehlhaar
Director: Rob Feng
Executive Producer: Jeff Pantaleo
Producer: Kira Nixon
Production/Canada: Luper Productions, Toronto
Director of Photography: Adam Marsden
Executive Producer: Lewis Weinstein

Design, Animation & Post Production: Brand New School, New York
Creative Director & Designer: Jens Gehlhaar
Lead Artists: Dennis Go, Kevin Robinson, Bran Dougherty-Johnson
Additional Designers: Jon Santos, Doug Lee, Sarah Ancalmo, Jonathan Cannon
Flame Artist: Brad Schott
Producer: Josh Libitsky

Editorial: Lost Planet, New York
Editor: Charlie Johnston

14th Annual MVPA Awards; Best Effects