In 1993, director Ridley Scott delivered his latest high-profile entry in his long & celebrated career in the commercial field. Commissioned by British banking giant Midland Bank, “THE POWER OF LISTENING” details a simple, yet exceedingly elegant concept that ties together the sweeping scope of human history through the most universal language of all: music. Beginning with early man rhythmically banging on stones & sticks, surrounded by a vast desert, the musical baton is then passed off to a group of Muslim nomads… then Christian crusaders… then Victorian nobility… and then finally a modern orchestra. As we blast through the centuries in the span of a minute, each successive group adds their piece onto a singular musical composition.
It’s easy to see why Scott was hired to execute the spot— such a high-concept piece requires a director with effortless technical dexterity and a talent for cinematic expressionism. Filming in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio for the square television sets of the era, Scott imprints his signature visual style with a high-contrast image populated by silhouettes, smoke, lens flares, and an immersive desert backdrop. A heavy orange color cast and gradient skies point to particular visual conceits that Scott had been experimenting with during the late 80’s and early 90’s. Considered compositions, as well as classical camera moves like pans and dollies, are used to connect the various vignettes and historical epochs through time & space.
While it’s not mentioned in the same breath as iconic spots like Apple’s “1984” or even Hovis’ “BIKE ROUND”, “THE POWER OF LISTENING” nonetheless stands as yet another sterling example of Scott’s short-form prowess. Despite its age, “THE POWER OF LISTENING” represents one of the more recent high-profile spots in Scott’s filmography– he has no doubt remained active in the commercial world, but the mid-90’s onward would find the seasoned director increasingly devoting his full attention to theatrical features. With literally thousands of commercials under his belt, Scott by this point had done pretty much everything there was to do in advertising; he could leave that world behind, secure in the knowledge that he had been one of its most influential voices.
MIDLAND BANK: “THE POWER OF LISTENING” is currently available on Youtube via the embed above.