Interpretations:Experimental Film

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It's a song about pretentiousness, and believing you can make it in the movie world by turning a light on and off, making an "experimental film", rather than anything with an actual plot or anything original. Experimental films are usually the excuses of people with no ideas. The films make it look like there is some deeper logic or idea to the film, but really there is none.


OK come on how can you not get it!!!!! It's obviously about that tentacle skull on the old timey bike.


I gave it my own personal meaning...as I do with most songs. (The great thing about TMBG is the lyrics where you can be so creative with). When I first heared the song i whas working on my own film for a university project. I already had these great ideas, but couldn explain them and just had to make it fast. The other parts of the song reminded me on how much hard work it is. Thats why I love this song for it looks like it has some deep, personal emotional connection with me.


Its all about Rondo turning into a new man- Strong Sad


I think that Experimental Film is sung from the point of view of God and that the "experimental film" is actually life. Nobody knows about it because they're all apart of it and life is such an experiment that not even God himself can explain it and he is still figuring it out, yet somehow he knows that its great. The way the movie ends means death. Your face implodes because before you die you finally come to realize what exactly the experimental film means and it is so great that it blows your mind, or, in this case, your face. The color of infinity inside an empty glass could mean making something beautiful (the color of infinity) out of nothing (an empty glass) and that is why the experimental film is so great. Turning off and on the light could be a reference to how movies work, that they're just an illusion of movement and how you watch them using persistence of vision. - John-311


Just a note, I remember recieving extensive instruction when learning how to stand at attention (yes military) about looking into infinity until you were able to see the "color of infinity"-Sully


Is it safe to conclude that the interp at the top of the page is deliberately stretching? If so, that's cool. It made me smile. For my two cents, I think Experimental Film is very clear in meaning: it's about hack filmmakers. I'm an actor in NYC, and my experience has been that everybody wants to make the next cutting-edge, seething-with-genius film, but nobody really has any good ideas. Or any idea at all, for that matter. I think this song nails it dead-on: the stupid philosophical bong water of so many filmmakers ("color of infinity"), cheap special effects to trip you out ("flicking on and off the lights"), and the highly-unrealistic expectations of how people will react to the film ("your face implodes"). And these hacks almost always use their friends as the stars ("You're all gonna be in this experimental film"). Like virtually all of the rest of Linnell's stuff, this song wears its meaning on its sleeve.


I completely agree with you there. Many of Linnell's songs are about exactly what they appear to be about. Sometimes we look look for genius in the lyrics of a song by figuring out the metaphor or schema that the author had in mind, like the first interpretation here. I think the genius in this song is how he captures the emotion of the aspiring filmmaker, and, as you said, the various "givens" with such a person. I studied film in college, but found that the ideas just weren't coming for that next great film, so I picked a new career altogether.


The project in the song (experimental film) probably could be any project. I myself am a programmer and love to work on many hobby projects that more often than not, unless it is urgently needed, will not be finished. All we know about the film is: we're all in it, the ending is so great so to make our heads implode, and it hasn't been started yet. It's not really a good plan for a project, because it doesn't include anything in the middle. When I endevour small hobby projects I do this exact same thing, since they're so small, and normally because doing the stuff in the middle as I go along and making more problems for myself to solve is fun for me. Unfortunately, these are the kind that never get done because they're so disorganized. The singer then expects to get together with his pals and have fun and do whatever, and maybe something'll get done.

We don't find out if it gets done or not, since when the song ends it still hasn't started. I like to look at The Spine as a story that starts with this dream of a project and the following songs add to the story though, so I'm looking at I Can't Hide From My Mind as the conclusion. There's no heads imploding, just a guy trying to escape himself. Looking back at Stalk Of Wheat, the same guy lost everything else (most importantly his ideas - a sudden insight he hopes could finish the project while not going back). I guess by hoping his head would implode he desired to corner and tame his source of ideas, but he couldn't. Neither can I. - Sheep




I really think this is about the film maker literally as was suggested. But I don't think the tone is childing. Looking at it I think it's about the joy of having an idea, and the really hard part of the creative process fleshing it out. "The color of infinity inside an empty glass" - The image is a thinking one looking at an empty glass and seeing infinity, but not seeing one clear vision, just everything stretching out. You have this abstract idea of how you want it to turn out in the end, the singer has the ending down, but they don't know how they are going to express it. I can't make you think exactly the same way I do, my words can't communicate exactly what I mean because you interpret my words, and sometimes I can't find the right words anyway. The singer can't explain his idea, but he already knows how great his inspiration is, he just can't express it yet.


Right. It's very upbeat (yeah!), it isn't a writer's-block or woe-to-me-the-misunderstood-artist piece. It's about setting off on a journey without really knowing what to expect (the color of infinity inside an empty glass), only that it will be exciting, significant and emotional (how great it is, your face implodes). Interestingly it's an introspective (squinting my eye and turing off and on and on and off the light) and personal (which nobody knows about) journey, but key to its success is the external social aspect (you're all gonna be in this).

It pretty much describes how I look at the future of my life. I'm still figuring out what's going to go in, but one thing I do know is you're all gonna be in it. Even though I can't explain it, I already know how great it is. And in the end, your face implodes.


In MY mind, this song is ironic and funny. We know that TMBG love taking lyrics about off kilter subject matter and singing them to upbeat melodies. Linnell has written other songs about small, unimportant people chugging along despite their strange problems. This seems like one of those songs. The film the director is making is low tech, has no plot, and nobody else cares---BUT THAT'S OKAY! He's going to go right ahead and make the movie anyway! The chorus (Yeah! You're all...) is a dig at power pop songs in which the audience is instructed to do something usually more normal. Anyway, it's one of my favorite songs on the album. --An orangutan


I'm a recent film school graduate and I totally get the humor in this song. I've seen one too many awful experimental films. I like the part when he says "I already know the ending..." and then says "I don't know what makes your face implode but thats the way the movie ends" Totally about how bad experimental filmmakers arent thinking of stories or content anything, they just know what kind of audience reaction they want, and nothing more.


Note that the narrator can't even finish his sentence, much less his experimental film! (I already know how great it's ...)


I think the character in this song is the same guy who wants to glue his poster on the gray utility pole. -- Nosmo King


I think the "I already know how great it's" actually is a full sentance, "it's" means 'it is' right? so 'I already know how great it is'... ok, so maybe it's not gramatically correct (or the correct tense), but it's a frelling song fergodsake, people do weird things with the English language in songs...


Maybe it's just me, but the primary feel I'm getting from the filmmaker in the song is arrogance. Maybe that's just because it's a feeling I identify with SO very well, but the whole idea of 'I don't know what I'm going to put in it, I don't even know what it's about, but I already know it's so great that it'll make your face implode at the end!' speaks of pride far going over hopefulness and into belief in the film (and the filmmaker's) infallibility. Oh, well.

Surprising, that, since I first knew of the song from watching the video on Homstarrunner.com and Strong Sad is far from (overtly) arrogant, though you could argue the Cheat is.


I don't know about OVERTLY arrogant, but it's interesting that the hidden commentary track in the H*R video does feature Strong Sad, for the first time in memory, actually LASHING OUT when Homestar begins to make fun of the directors' vision. Well, maybe not lashing out, but I can't remember Strong Sad ever actually having the nerve to tell anyone to "Shut up!"



Something I just realized, one of the directors of the Homestar Runner video,a little yellow thing called "The Cheat", is well know for his head exploding from time to time totally randomly.

       -Strong Rad

I think in the liner notes the lyrics are listed as "I already know how great it is," and Linnell only sings "it's" to prevent an awkwardly fast "it is," and because it's the kinda thing he'd do.

Anyway, the song seems to me like the narration of one of those misguided attempts at art, where the artist sort of starts without any sort of idea and tries to make it flow, often ending in a failure. The lyrics suggest that the speaker has no idea what's going to compose his final piece, but still feels it'll be great. He's very enthused, but I think the entire thing foreshadows a possible letdown.

Alternativley, there could be an elaborate storyline to The Spine that Experimental Film introduces. Maybe it's like "hey, I'm making this film, check it out!" and then the rest of the album proceeds to be the film's actual content. I haven't really put much thought into this, clearly, but it's certainly an idea. Thoughts?

-Synergy


My view is a bit less synical. I believe the song is literal in the sense of it jusr being about a confused artist trying to figure out how to show his skill.


Well, ummm, besides the literal interpretation, I like to think of this song simply as the singer's view of life. He sees the world as a stage in which he can create his film, seeing the beautiful in the mundane (colour of infinity/empty glass) and enjoying little things like flicking the lights. His movie is that of the world, of life all around him, even though (or maybe especially since) no one else realizes that they're all actors in the singer's grand project. The singer then tells us that even though he doesn't have the script or what the result will be, he knows that it (the film, that is, life all around him) will become something so amazingly wonderful, it'll make your face implode. That's my two cents, anyways, thanks ^^

- cube


I know this interpretation's pretty morbid and out of left field, but for some reason it stuck for me. I keep getting the impression that the narrator isn't a film-maker at all, but rather a student or disgruntled worker who's about to go on a killing spree, his experimental film. He's still figuring it out, but you're all going to be in it. He can't really explain why he feels the need to do it, but he knows it's going to be great. He's not sure how he'll make their faces implode, but he knows that's the way the movie ends.

- Dan


This song came out just shortly after the 2004 elections, when you consider that, it's entirely likely that TMBG was writing it during the elections. One of the major points of the 2004 race was that neither candidate would actually give thier "plan for America" during an interview, they would only allude to "how great it is." The face imploding could have something to do with either how TMBG felt about the elections at this point, or about the War in Iraq. It's definately a bit of a stretch, but I think it's worth mentioning. ~ Recluse


To me, I'd think it's about some guy's life. He doesn't know what to do, (hence "figuring out what's going to go in my experimental film") and knows his life's gonna be great ("I already know how great it is.") The part that makes your face implode would be his death perhaps. I dunno, 'cause this song can be taken literal too.


Is there a "literal" TMBG song besides "James K. (the-hook-almost-killed-me-once) Polk?" Would this wiki even be possible without the n-entendres in these songs?

Among the meanings that are here are the dippy film student --typically clever TMBG device-- thing and the film(ing)-as-life metaphor. Seems weird to me that some here feel a need for it to be just one or the other. I think the video is wonderfully clever, just like the song.

It was surprising that upon searching this site, Memento mori turned-up no hits. They're everywhere in TMBG's songs and images, and right out there in this one and in the video too. My personal fave knits the major themes and more: "Check balance".


This makes me think of my Video Productions class, Case in point, my group, on each and every project, wants to get all artsy and convoluted over the littlest thing, adding obtuse and uneccecary metaphors and such, the line about not knowing how your face implodes, but that's how it ends anyway, remindes me of that. The "You're all gonna be in my experimental film" sort of hints at the "film" being life in general.


I think the dude's "experimental film" is his life. He's trying to make everyone happy by including them. and when he does that, it just turned out to be nonsense. Cause the lyrics are just a bunch of random things. Whatever it means, the song is really catchy, and you should see the video on http://www.homestarrunner.com/expfilm.html it's also jsut a good ebsite anyway -jdc


Will every body please shut up about the it's "it is" thing and start talking about the fricking song -Jordan


the where they are druming on coffe represents hitting coffe with a drum stick acording too the cheat -bubso


I think with alot of They Might Be Giants songs they are supposed to be both about the literal thing they are talking about AND some sort of deeper meaning. Experimental Film is about a film director but it's also about a type of excited and confusing situation that could be applied to many different aspects of life. I quite like the interpretation that it is from the perspective of God, however I am curious about this interpretation because isn't the idea in Christianity that God already has a plan? -Jimmeh


no god...just random. no tmbg songs are about god....except maybe Kiss me Son of God.


ok, i somewhat agree with a lot of the above, but in the words of adam savage, "i reject your reality and substitute my own."

anyway, when i hear this song i can't help picturing a kid who sees his own life as a movie, of which he is the hero. whether this is to investigate his life from another point of view or to pretend he lives in a cliche movie world with adventures and a happy ending is anyone's guess. since his entire LIFE is a film to him, its no wonder that he'd see it as something as big as an experimental film, full of twists and turns, just like in life. ok, now we get into citing some lyrics.

"it's for this experimental film which nobody knows about and which i'm still figuring out..." -this line shows us that the kid's experimental film is one that's unknown by others, leading me to believe that the film is more of an internal struggle-something that "nobody knows about". the kid's 'film' is his life, since hes still figuring out the stuff in the film; i.e.- the film isnt over yet.

"yeah, you're all gonna be in this experimental film, and even though I can't explain it, I already know how great it's..." -this line suggests that the narrator is happy as viewing his life the way he does (i already know how great it is) and that he cant explain his happiness (as anyone else would be confused by the mental tapestry the kid weaves for himself). evidence that the boy's 'film' is his life is further substanciated by the line "you're all gonna be in this experimental film", hinting that everyone he will meet in the future impact his life- they are all in the boy's 'film'. my theory can also be supported by the fact that this line is the song's chorus, telling us its importance to the narrator, who keeps going back to the idea of his life being a film.

as to the whole "face imploding" verse, i offer this idea for you to ponder: everyone has people in their lives who they arent very fond of. a bully, a teacher, or an older sibling- all of these are examples of those whose faces you wish would implode ("face imploding" could also be a variation of "head exploding"). now, think of it this way: this kid sees his life as a movie, right? well, wouldnt it be appropriate for the kid to visualize the school bully's face imploding when he beats on the kid's friends for their lunch money? when the movie's hero uses his powers to make Marvin the bully's face implode, he is hoisted onto the shoulders of his cheering fans- a scenario that has played out in all of our minds at least once in life. in short, imagining your face implode is the way this narrator deals with his problems. although this may be an absurd way to mentally tune out all of life's annoyances (i don't know what makes your face implode) the narrator accepts it as a hysterical way to block out these inconveniences that he hopes others find funny in its randomness (but that's the way the movie ends).

To relate this boy's mental state (or at least imagination) to an example you may be familiar with, consider the character of Li'l Slugger from the anime Paranoia Agent. Slugger envisions himself as the hero of a zelda-esqe videogame reality, just as our narrator sees himself as the hero of his experimental film.

Anyway, thats what i think. any questions?

-Clapis


One of the times I interviewed They Might Be Giants (this time it was one-on-one with John Linnell, Oct. 12th, 2001), as an aside to the proceedings I told him I was (at the time) a grad student in filmmaking, and that I planned to make an experimental film of them someday. I went on to try and describe it, saying I didn't know how to explain it but that they'd be in it, and all I knew was how it began and ended, and would they be up for something like that? Two years and 8 mos. later they released their album The Spine, whose title track was "Experimental Film", the lyrics of which cited much of the same descriptors of the conversation such as in this portion:

"It's for this experimental film, Which nobody knows about, And which I'm still figuring out, What's going to go in my experimental film?

"Yeah-- you're all gonna be in this experimental film, And even though I can't explain it I already know how great it's

"I already know the ending it's The part that makes your face implode, I don't know what makes your face implode, But that's the way the movie ends"

I still have the cassette tape from the interview, and will have to make that portion available as an audio example someday. When I told my mentor at the time, she said, "Well now you have to actually make the film!"

I'm not claiming to be the instigator of the song, but find it to be an amusing occurence. It's still a project I'd like to tackle once I've built up a more solid career base. Incidentally I'm often accused of seeing my own life as a movie, so what Clapis says above is a telling insight about someone who proposes experimental film roles to his or her idols!

-- monsterofmud


The narrator of this song is an aspiring film director at a party, annoying all his friends with his unclear plans for an experimental film. Seriously. That's all it is.


This song is obviously about how John and John traveled from 2003 to the mysterious future of 2007 and read my thoughts while i was in the shower thinking about how it would be cool to make an experimental film... or it's about how every wants to make something new and exciting... or i suppose it could just be a parody of experimental cinema, either way it's about me

-- egotistic nutso boy


I think that the narrator of this song is singing about being god. Turning on-off the lights. ~day and night~

I already know the ending it's the part tha makes your face implode. ~thats how the world is going to end!~

Hear the song agian and think about IF the narrator is god. It makes sence


This song is about Rondell turning into a new man, that tentacle-skull and it's task to keep on old-timey bikin', and an Experimebtak Film.

Whoa, what did I do? Experimebtak Flim? Er--- I need to gfje.... YES I'M AWESOME! -Salioshy



Creativity[edit | edit source]

The song is about the joy of creativity. The narrator is eagerly grasping at his ideas. Films are mostly visual so it makes sense that there's no plot yet. He sees the color of infinity inside an empty glass, light and shadow, and someone's face imploding. He wants to put everyone he knows into the film because he wants to draw up everyone important in his life into his art, which is very natural. And he's full of optimism for his endeavor. I don't sense any cynicism in the song. It's a very delightful little number and I've been a fan of it . . . I first heard the song attached to the Homestar video. I ended up buying "The Spine" just so I could hear the song in context.







I see the idea of unfinished or unprogressive ideas all over this song. It starts off with the idea of "squinting my eye and turning off / and on and on and off the light" in hopes of seeing "The color of infinity inside an empty glass" like he is trying to see some phenomenon with just an empty glass and a light switch, and getting nowhere. This is followed by his idea of completing an experimental film that makes your face implode, but without any idea on how to do so, and cannot seem to finish expressing his feelings for it (I already know how great it's...) This is doubled by the Chapmans' idea of the narrator being someone who cannot even complete day-to-day tasks like working with an ATM or shaving his face. However, near the end of the video, he seems to start doing some of these things (like how he shaves his face, followed by the Powered-by-The-Cheat color animation that seems to symbolize this new-found character in him) but is confronted with many challenges (the other characters aren't exactly helping with his film). Unless I'm imagining it, the tone of the singer's voice seems to be more positive there as well.

By the way, I don't thing "it's" is the end of the sentence, because in the second to last refrain, he actually continues the sentence to "how great it's gonna-"

Anyway, I think the whole message of this song is positive. There's no hint of some hidden tragedy in the music, and the video ends with the blooming of a flower.

- Technochocolate

This song reminds me of the 2000 film version of Hamlet (the one with Bill Murray). It's set in modern times, so instead of putting on a play, Hamlet makes an experimental film to expose Claudius as a murderer (i.e., "making his face implode"?)

-Anonymous