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Fiona Apple
Page 1Page 2Page 3Page 4    by Mark Zeltner -- page 3 of 4

At a minute and thirty seconds into the video the scene shifts to the kitchen. Apple, dressed like a little girl in knee socks and a slip, begins to strip off her clothing. Her strip is not of a sexual design but more in keeping with the awkward adolescent that Apple is, or at least is portraying. Of course, in reality, this type of strip has much greater sexual power than any mere Madonna-like bump and grind that could be performed at this point. The lyrics during the strip sequence reinforce the direct address to the audience. She asks us to "save her from these evil deeds" while she admits that "tomorrow brings the consequence at hand."

At a minute and forty seconds, this scenario is intercut with shots of Apple now in the bathtub with a man. While Apple leers suggestively at us, we see only her face and the man's feet. The difference here is that Apple has regained the come-hither facial expressions of the early seconds of the video. When these shots are interspersed with the almost frightening vulnerability of the strip scene in the kitchen (made more harrowing by Apple's extremely thin and fragile physical appearance), we are thrust directly into the dichotomy of the situation. Apple is a woman AND a child and we are as guilty, as criminal, as the man sharing her bathtub.

Approximately two minutes into the video, the kitchen scenario is dropped and we see Apple singing in front of what appears to be a glass window that looks into a swimming pool. Several men and women swim past the window. These shots are intercut with shots of Apple apparently in the same pool and shots of Apple resting prone on the lap of a man with his pants unzipped. At this point a variety of scenarios begin occurring with occasional flashbacks to the first few seconds of the video. The two most interesting sequences are a series of shots of a man's (?) pair of jeans flung on a chair. The shots eventually pan to the left until we see a small stuffed animal carefully placed in the corner of the room. The other sequence again features Apple taking snapshots, but this time she is photographing a woman who is facing her but has her back to us. Once again, these sequences brilliantly play up the themes of voyeurism and forbidden sex that dominate the video.

During these sequences, Apple asks us to help her "cleanse myself of all these lies till I'm good enough for him." The images shift between Apple as the adolescent child and Apple as the sexually promiscuous woman who asks us for help while inviting us to ogle her at the same time.

The themes of voyeurism and forbidden sex are again emphasized when at two minutes and thirty-seven seconds into the video two new scenarios are introduced. First we see a television, its screen filled with static, rising ominously out of the floor (a pretty nice accessory for such a tacky apartment). Then we see a shot of the engine of the previously introduced sports car. These shots seem to have little to do with the rest of the video until we later see that Apple is apparently trapped in the backseat of the sports car and that someone is videotaping and printing photographs of her in the sports car and subsequently in a sauna. Again the twin images of youthful, forbidden sexuality (the backseat of a sports car) are combined with voyeurism. The bridge of the song occurs during this sequence and the lyrics are the most revealing yet of Apple's position as a narrator. She sings, "I've got to make a play to make my lover stay so what would an angel say. The devil wants to know." Apple moves beyond admitting guilt for a mistake and for the first time in the video admits to her own duplicity.

The video hits the final chorus of the song at three minutes and eleven seconds and the scene shifts to Apple in bed with an apparently sleeping man. As she sings to the camera, it becomes apparent that a number of people in the video are sitting around and watching her, much as we are.

The final play-out of the song, after the end of the lyrics, revisits all the scenarios of the video already presented. There is one interesting additional scenario added during this sequence: as the music of a snake-charmer creeps into the mix, Apple holds a bottle of dish detergent. She squeezes the bottle and a blob of pink liquid floats into the air. The final two images of the video show Apple looking guiltily at us and then the bathtub filling up while six or seven oranges float in the water.

The sexual connotations of the dish detergent sequence are too obvious to require much discussion. Like the earlier spurting shower shot, the camera shot is uncharacteristically blunt and graphic and amusingly obvious in its implications. The final two shots are more puzzling. Is there going to be a cleansing or redemption at the end of this evening? Exactly who is looking for redemption--Apple or the perpetrators of the crime (in other words us)?

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Get the complete lyrics for "Criminal"
and download a sound clip,
courtesy of the Fiona Apple Home Page at Epic.


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