....even though I will likely look back on this entry, cringe, and hate myself for writing it. But here goes:
Nirvana "Heart-Shaped Box"
Heavy shit. Nirvana were at the height of their fame when this one was recorded. The song, and the entire In Utero album, was written in a closet off the Master Bedroom in Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love's (and Francis Bean Cobain's) house in Hollywood Heights, California. Later dubbed "The In Utero House". Home movies exist of that time in their lives, and Kurt and Courtney spent most of their time trying to take care of Francis, while nursing their heroin addictions.
But Kurt, and Nirvana, were the biggest deals the music industry and all of pop culture had at that time.
So let's delve into the music video interpretation a bit, shall we? Kurt was known for having total creative control over the direction of the music (though he didn't write everything in regards to instrumentation), and the lyrics, and the imagery presented in the music videos.
1) So, opening scene to "Heart-Shaped Box" - the band are sitting at the end of a bed with an old man getting an IV of some type. It is later revealed in the video that it was an IV of blood with a fetus within. A large black cross is painted on the floor beneath the bed, with the top of said cross coming from out of the bottom of the bed. Is the cross upside down? Rightside up? And the large gray curtains are closed, letting in very little sunlight.
2) The drums and other instruments join the strumming guitar, and an old man (same same old man who was in the hospital bed) is seen strolling through a field of technicolor flowers - picking some, stepping on others. A giant wooden cross is in his proximity. He is in a shawl-like pelvic covering, and is wearing a Santa Claus hat. He climbs a ladder to the wooden cross in the field, where he is then seen strapped with rope to said cross, with model crows perched upon the arms of the cross - the crows are nodding and shaking their head back and forth. The man's resemblance to Jesus Christ is notable.
3) Then, the chorus kicks in (that of "Hey, wait, I've got a new complaint!") and the band are playing their instruments in front of the now vacant cross. Kurt is in the center, and the ropes upon the arms of the cross are dangling.
4) When the chorus ends, and the second verse begins, a blond-haired, blue-eyed female child is standing in front of a tree with fetus' dangling from it's branches. The girl is dressed in a white gown, with a large white cone hat. She jumps with her arms stretched out, apparently trying to reach one of the fetus'.
5) A large woman is also seen in proximity to the tree, walking slowly (in place) with her arms out in front of her, smiling graciously. She is wearing a spandex bodysuit that reflects the human anatomy (an intestine where an instetine would be, lungs where the lungs would be, etc.). She is always wearing a pair of dark gray "angel" wings.
6) The girl (the one in white) is then seen observing the man on the cross. Then, jumping up and down towards one side of the cross. Occassionally skipping back and forth in front of the man.
7) In this scene, the man is no longer wearing the Santa Claus hat, but a pope-like piece of religious head gear.
8) The chorus starts, but before the vocals begin, the large woman in the anatomy suit is seen standing on a curving trail between the now-empty cross, a tree, and the fetus tree in the background.
9) This time the band is performing the chorus amongst the trees.
10) The girl in white is seen tossing a red flower to the side of the screen, and then the guitar solo kicks in with a breeze knocking the white cone hat off of the girl. Blue butterflies are seen flying across the screen, followed by the white cone hat, where the cone hat lands in a puddle of black liquid, absorbing the colors of the liquid.
11) The girl now stands in the hospital room that has the old man in it. Her white gown and cone hat are now solid black. It briefly shows the band sitting in the room with the old man, before the third verse begins.
12) On the third verse, no other imagery is used throughout - just Kurt solemnly mouthing the vocals, eyes closed throughout the first half, Dave and Krist in the background, Krist's arm around Dave.
13) The chorus starts, it is revealed that the place they are sitting is a small box-like room, filled with star-shaped lights amongst the walls, and a giant heart with unknown "pixelation" throughout the heart above this room.
14) The room they are in, has a ratty mattress on a bedframe, an outdoor lounge chair, and an end table with lamp and another unknown object upon the table.
15) The girl in white (who is back in a white gown/hat - no longer dark in color) is seen in the room, absent of band members, and sometimes peeking within a heart-shaped box (like one would get as a gift, with chocolates, for example).
16) The chorus ends after the band moves (dances?) along with the chorus, and the video ends with the band back in the hospital room, the man still in the bed, and with the guitar distortion ending the song, Krist opens the blinds to let in the sunlight.
...a lot to unpack. A lot to unfold. Many elements of the music video probably couldn't be explained, or articulated properly even if Kurt, himself, were here to describe it all. It should be noted that he (Kurt) did not direct the video, but that the entire concept and different details within are of his creation.
Let's start with fetus' within the video. Kurt always said that throughout his older years, he had amassed a small collection of model fetus', when asked "why?" he said they were fascinating and creepy at the same time. In the video, the fetus' hanging from the tree could very well be portrayed as the "umbilical noose" within the song lyrics, and the fetus' are hanging from their umbilical cords. (???). I do not know this, I am guessing.
The child (while in white) could represent "life" pre-birth, and that is why she is jumping up and down to "get" to one of the fetus'. That same child (while in black) could represent "life" post-death, and that may be why she is seen in black while in the hospital room with the dying old man. The large woman with the anatomy suit could represent an expecting mother (or a woman willing to have a child) and that may be why she walks in-place with her arms stretched towards the tree of fetus'. The fetus in the IV bag attached to the old man could represent a "treatment" of other, healthy medical procedures sustaining the life of the dying man - the young keeping the old alive.
The depiction of the cross. Initially, a black cross is on the floor of the hospital room, protruding from underneath the bed where the old man is lying. The cross appears upside down to the band members at the end of the bed, but the cross is rightside up to the old man in the bed.
A wooden cross is seen in the flower field a moment later in the video. The old man climbs a ladder and is then seen strapped to it. The Santa Claus hat could represent an over-exaggerated significance of the man, himself - like he is Jesus and Santa Claus(!). The model crows perched upon the arms of the cross bend and nod in disapproval (seemingly) at the old man, as he glances up at them, and then lowers his head (in shame?) after each glance.
The band appears during the first chorus. They are playing in front of the cross, the man is gone, and the ropes that had tied the man to it are now dangling. Kurt is playing and mouthing the vocals front-and-center of the cross. Was Kurt supposed to BE the man? Was the man what Kurt was invevitably going to become (in his (Kurt's) mind?).
The settings They, the band, the other characters, are in a field filled with red, technicolored flowers, to the side(s) of the field is a forest with decrepit trees. No leaves, no foliage - just hanging fetus' and jagged limbs. The field may represent sort of an "area of life". Where living occurs. The hospital room towards the start and end of the video is where death might occur. The "heart-shaped box" room, with not much inside the room (besides the appearance of the band members and the girl in white at different times) could represent conception. Everything is brightly lit and optimistic in nature in this final scene.
The ordering of events. Everything seems to be backwards or at least not clearly IN order, if this video were to be interpreted as an expresion of "birth > life > death". Things go back and forth, they happen at different (unknown?) times for whatever reason. The video starts with a depiction of death (or, someone (presumably) dying). But ends with a "celebratory" (or at least more brightly lit) chorus in the "heart-shaped box", where all of the dancing and "singing" occuring leads to the curtains in the hospital room being opened moments later, letting in a blinding light.
A backwards expression of "death > life (living) > birth"? Certainly hard to say. I can say that these separate elements and characters are likely what I assume them to be (or, I assume them to be in MY head - I don't know what else they could be representing).
There's SO much more that can be looked into and dissected with this video, but there is literally not enough time in the day to filter through it all.
Amazing song. Amazing band. Always worth a listen.