Sunday, December 4, 2011

"Nothing on Earth Comes Close"

This is a commercial directed by Tony Scott for Saab. Thanks to this commercial, Scott was offered the chance to direct Top Gun, starring Tom Cruise. The rest, they say, is history. This is an interesting advertisement in that it is starkly simplistic. There are two men, and I mean masculine men. Both of them walk towards the camera in slow motion, carrying their paraphernalia. They open garage doors, and an ethereal light illuminates their machines: a jet fighter and a Saab. The pilot lovingly strokes the wing of the plane. They drive their machines out into the rain, and thanks to a series of quick cuts, it appears that they are staring each other down. There is a competition to occur. As the orchestral score lowers in volume, the engine of the plane grows louder. The plane and the car drive towards the camera, but the plane takes off. In the frame, the jet is above the Saab. There is nothing between them. The music returns, swelling, and the logo is revealed again: Saab.

It is simplistic but ever so effective. Ostensibly, the comparison is being made between a jet fighter and an automobile. The viewer is meant to associate the two machines and conclude that if one wants to be an ideal of masculinity, or a fighter pilot, one must purchase a Saab, the next best thing. The comparison is made by using equal screen time and by shooting both machines at the same angles, then cutting between them, creating a sense of continuity between the two.

The fighter jet is also made by Saab, famously so. The idea that the makers of a fighter jet would also make a car seems attractive. If you were a man who appreciated the power and thrust of a jet engine, then why would you not enjoy the power and sleekness of a miniature jet, an automobile version of a jet? While there is an explicit comparison being made between the Saab car and the Saab jet, there is an explicit comparison being made between the men. Only men who drive Saabs are comparable to the men who pilot jets. In the Eighties, with the Cold War simmering, a common masculine ideal is that of the military man. In 1985, both Rocky and Rambo sequels were dominating US box offices. In 1986, Top Gun dominated the box office totally along with Platoon. Military personnel were symbols of American austerity and prosperity. Of course, Saab is a European company, and the commercial aired in Europe mostly, but the point is that the military figure was on the minds of millions of people. They were symbols to look up to. If you wanted to be like a symbol, all you had to do was buy a Saab.

This is why this is one of the best commercials ever made.

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