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Can't Go Wrong Without You (1993)

Courtesy of Koninck Studios

Main image of Can't Go Wrong Without You (1993)
Stille Nacht IV: Can't Go Wrong Without You
35mm, black and white, 3 mins
Directors/AnimatorsBrothers Quay
Production CompanyKoninck Studios
ProducerIvo Watts-Russell
MusicHis Name Is Alive

As a young girl stands on the cusp of adulthood, a rabbit and a demonic figure are locked in a power struggle.

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Following their first collaboration the previous year with Are We Still Married? (1992), the Quay Brothers reunited with Michigan-based musicians His Name Is Alive to create the video for their 1993 single 'Can't Go Wrong Without You'.

Very consciously a sequel to the earlier video, this recapitulates many of its central Lewis Carrollian motifs: the girl with constantly expanding and contracting height (an effect enhanced here by standing her on scales, her weight fluctuating in time with her changing size), the paddle decorated with the image of a heart and a pair of eyes, the rabit, and recurring impressions of keys, locks and dark, mysterious secrets.

But the imagery takes on an altogether more disturbing aspect as spots of blood form on the scales between the girl's legs. A shot of a cut finger hints at a straightforward explanation, but it could just as easily be the onset of menarche. This theme of surrendered innocence is further developed via a black-clad male figure wearing a demonic mask, who seems locked in a power struggle with the rabbit, the latter trying to prevent him from obtaining a precious egg (a visual echo in more potent form of the white ping-pong ball in the earlier video).

All of this takes place in an off-kilter Expressionist world of skewed angles, doors, rickety balustrades and treacherous steps, squarely in line with The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (Germany, 1919) via film noir - though the Quays add further disorienting touches in the form of glasses rolling across the ceiling and a pervasive impression that the very fabric of their universe can be unravelled by merely pulling the right thread.

Michael Brooke

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'Quay Brothers: The Short Films 1979-2003'.

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Video Clips
Complete film (3:47)
Griffiths, Keith (1947-)
Quay, Brothers (1947-)