Like “Tribute”, the music video for “Just” combines narrative with performance. Unlike “Tribute”, however, “Just” does not feature any audible speech (which would interrupt the song) and the story is played out through subtitles. Radiohead music videos are typically arty and abstract, so expect philosophical weirdness.
1. The video begins silently, showing a bathroom wall. A man walks in front of it, and then the image cuts to a zoom to show the man standing in the bathroom. There is a close up of his legs as he unwraps the towel around his waist.
2. The image cuts to a very similar shot of one of the band members’ legs, which begin to walk across the room. The band are performing the song in a flat. The image cuts to the man lowering himself into a bath, then back to the flat where Thom Yorke is singing into a mic.
3. The man is shown walking down a lane in a city between rows of trees. He wears a suit and tie and has a ‘sensible’ haircut, suggesting a boring middle class businessman.
4. The footage cuts between images of the man walking along the street and the band playing in the flat. A low angle shot shows that the man is standing outside a block of flats, suggesting that this is the block of flats where Radiohead are playing.
5. A shot of the man’s feet is used to show him lying down in the middle of the pavement. The image cuts again to the band.
6. A shot of the man lying in the street is followed by a shot of a younger, similarly dressed man with a long tie walking along and tripping over. A long shot then shows him landing sprawled near the man who is lying down. He starts to get to his feet.
7. The band are shown playing once again. There is a close up of Yorke’s legs (similar to the one used at the start of the video) as he strides across the room.
8. Yorke stands looking out the window. “Don’t get my sympathy” he sings, “hanging out the fifteenth floor”. Meanwhile, down on the street…
9. A high angled shot shows us Yorke’s POV of the events happening on the street below. Although the conversation is inaudible, subtitles tell us the man still staggering to his feet is saying “Jesus, I’m sorry. I didn’t see you there.” We then see a low angle shot (in other words, the man who is lying down’s POV) of him saying concernedly “Are you okay?” “Yes” replies the prone gentleman, in a close up of his face. The subtitles are white, which means they tend to stand out and remain visible. The font is a typed style as opposed to handwritten, and is a rather old fashioned style that conjures up images of offices and business, and tedium, a recurring theme in Radiohead’s songs from this period.
10. Yorke looks on, his hand against his mouth. The younger man asks if the other has fallen, but the prone man claims to be “fine”. The younger man smiles, as though suddenly realising something. “You’ve been drinking.” he exclaims.
11. When the man on the ground insists that he hasn’t been drinking, the other man moves back. “Why are you lying in the middle of the pavement?” he exclaims, gesturing angrily. “You could have broken my neck!”
12. Yorke turns around to sing the word “hell” so that he is facing the camera. His expression is quite aggressive. There are more shots of the band performing the song in the flat.
13. Back on the street, the standing man’s face is now one of concern, and he attempts to help the other man to his feet. “Don’t touch me!” cries the other man, flinching. The younger man now looks quite alarmed. The image cuts to the band again.
14. Back on the street, more onlookers have arrived. They crowd around, asking similar questions to those asked by the man with the long tie. Yorke, meanwhile, can be seen dancing wildly in the window of the flat. The man on the ground asks to be left alone. “He must be mad” exclaims one onlooker.
15. There are now very frequent cuts between the band playing and the scene in the road. The prone man insists that he is not mad. The man with the long tie crouches next to him. “Why are you lying down?” he asks. “Why won’t you tell me what’s wrong?”
16. The man on the ground gives the intriguing response “Look, I can’t tell you… it wouldn’t be right.” A woman calls over to a police officer who dismounts his motorbike and comes over, helmet tucked under his arm.
17. Yorke pulls back the curtain and gazes out the window. Down at the street level, the police officer crouches next to the man on the ground and tries to move him. “Don’t touch me!” the man cries again.
18. The man with the long tie asks again why the prone man is lying there, but he replies that the other man doesn’t want to know. “You don’t think there’s any point right?” cries the long-tied chap. “That we’re all going to die here? Is that what you think?” “No.” says the prone man flatly.
19. Yorke and Johnny Greenwood are dancing wilder than ever. “Tell us for Christ’s sake!” says the police officer. The man asks if they really want to know, and the long-tied man replies “Yes!” There is an interesting close-up of the neck of Johnny’s guitar at this point; unusual, since it’s as he takes his hand off it.
20. “Yes I’ll tell you. I’ll tell why I’m lying here… but God forgive me… and God help us all… because you don’t know what you ask of me.” says the man. “Tell us!” yells the man with the long tie hysterically.
21. The man starts to tell them, but at this point the subtitles vanish, so the viewer can’t see what he’s saying. The camera pulls away as all the onlookers get to their feet, looking scared. Close-ups show the man on the ground talking. Up above, Radiohead gather at the window and survey the scene.
22. There is a fade to show all the crowd lying on the ground. As the song points out, they have done it to themselves. There are fades to the various people lying on the ground, before the image cuts to black.
Whew… that was the longest so far to analyse. Perhaps that had something to do with the relatively complex plot, or maybe I’m just sleep deficient. Anyhow, here’s a link to the video on YouTube (ignore the brief glimpse of the “High and Dry” video we get at the end, I’m not sure why they’ve included that on there). It’s a good ‘un, so enjoy.
And if you aren’t interested in media studies and want to hear my view of what the man actually says, see this post.