Ties that bind. Cutting ties. The red string of fate. Across different cultures, human connections have often been conceived in terms of threads and cords, especially when it comes to romantic relationships. This metaphor is at the centre of IUs Ending Scene MV, which takes us on a delicate journey towards emotional closure following a reluctant end to the personas relationship.
As far as ballad themes go, break-ups are a common fixture, perhaps even a cliche. Every break-up ballad has its own story that seems similar to all the others. But given the right amount of detail or the right slant, it becomes its own, different shade of heartbreak. Ending Scene is not pure longing; its not anguish or repulsion, nor is it a kiss-off that masks vulnerability. Its self-doubt, the fear of never being able to love again—or even just feel alright again—after experiencing the end of a relationship. It takes the form of a monologue addressed to the ex-lover:
Please be honest with me
You know I believe anything you say
Will I ever receive love from someone who is like me?
If Ending Scene sounds vaguely familiar, its probably because the piano instrumentals are a variation on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Like the childrens song it takes from, the song is pure and clear. Layer in IUs airy vocals and melancholic delivery, and this appeal for reassurance that things will get better becomes almost childlike in how openly imploring it is.
The narrative of symbolic parting that anchors the Ending Scene MV is a sad one, but not overwhelmingly so. It is handled with a gentle touch, balancing melancholy with a fantastical, fairytale tone that has characterised many of IUs earlier MVs like Twenty-three and The Red Shoes. Yet here, as with Through the Night, the MV pays intricate attention to IUs growth as an artist; in place of the fanciful, merry mood of previous MVs is a more mature and introspective style that nevertheless has a touch of youthfulness and girlishness.
The MVs setting, dominated by a pastel colour palette, has a childlike feel to it, but is reworked to create a wistful rather than whimsical or cheery mood. The MV opens with IU and Kim Soo-hyun standing on thin air and fastened to colourful yarn like puppets, a row of paper movie seats behind them. Smiling, they stand together and IU puts the memories of their relationship on play on the silver screen. We are taken through a montage of the couples firsts: their first meeting and Kim Soo-hyuns shaky hands betraying the nervousness beneath his calm demeanour, and the first time they hold hands.
Such flashback sequences are a staple in break-up-themed MVs, but Ending Scene gives its flashbacks a tweak that has a touch of fantasy and a quiet but permeating sadness. The first meeting scene ghosts, and suddenly the Kim Soo-hyun in this memory breaks the fourth wall to address the present IU with his parting words:
Make sure you eat well, because it’ll all pass
You’ll be able to fall asleep like you did before
You have the right to be happier
The glitches on screen and IUs increasingly sorrowful expression are pressing reminders of how these sweet moments are already past, and the reality of the break-up keeps seeping in. The idea of an approaching ending is reinforced cinematically by a transformation in the colour scheme of the theatre set to mirror dusk and nightfall. From a magical pastel purple, the set turns pink and peach with sunset hues, and finally settles into dark blue shades of night.
In tandem with the sense of an ending evoked by the changing colours, Kim Soo-hyun becomes markedly less animated over the course of the MV. Initially, he is as human as IU; he smiles at her and laughs as he watches the screen. But he gradually turns more doll-like: when IU plucks a tuft from a nearby cloud and blows it towards him, he swings back as though he is made of paper, and comes to rest in an odd, forward-leaning position with a frozen expression. Later, he makes silly swimming motions in the air, but suddenly flops limply. In both moments, IUs face falls ever so slightly: she is slowly realising that the figure next to her is no longer the person she misses, but a fragment of memory that she is clinging to.
And with this realisation comes another one: it is time to let go. While the actual break-up has already occurred, she has been lingering in her memories, unwilling to emotionally part from the relationship. Its a little late, but she is finally ready for closure. This is portrayed delicately through matching a shot of Kim Soo-hyun cutting her fringe—a snippet from the past—with a shot of him cutting the yarn that is binding her to the theatre of her memories. She does the same, freeing this doll-version of him from the trappings of her mind, and then prepares herself for the final snip that will send her free-falling into the dark galaxy—the uncertain future—below.
(YouTube, Lyrics via pop!gasa, Images via Fave Entertainment)
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