The Heath Ledger-directed video for Modest Mouse’s “King Rat” premiered today, over 18 months after the Academy Award-winning actor passed away tragically at the age of 28. The blueprint for the video was mapped out at the time of Ledger’s death but the animation itself was unfinished, so the Masses, a film and music company that Ledger was a partner in, completed Ledger’s vision with the “King Rat” video that rests above, courtesy of Stereogum.
The video starts out pretty tranquil, with a smiling sun and horns trumpeting from the clouds and whales lounging deckside aboard a large boat. However, things get gruesome when the viewer learns that humans are the ones being hunted and it’s the whales that are commandeering the fishing boats. After the humans are harpooned and brought aboard, they are then skinned, their fleshy pelts thrown overboard, and the corpses are brought back to the mainland where they are later turned into seal food. With the clip, Ledger was hoping to bring awareness to the illegal commercial whale hunts taking place off the shores of Australia by reversing the roles of the parties involved, and the imagery of the video does a superior job of translating Ledger’s message.
According to a press release, Ledger approached Modest Mouse’s Issac Brock with the storyline for the video when Brock visited Australia in January 2007. Keeping with the spirit of the video, proceeds from when the video is purchased on iTunes will benefit the non-profit marine life organization Sea Shepherd Conservation Society for the next month. The video hits iTunes August 7th. The video’s premiere coincides with the release of the Modest Mouse’s new No One’s First, And You’re Next EP, which ironically happens to feature a track called “Whale Song.”
“King Rat” was co-directed and illustrated by Daniel Auber with lead animation by Norris Houk, animation by Jade Taglioli and produced by Sara Cline. In the video’s postscript, Modest Mouse writes “This began with our friend, a great defender of life, and was completed in his spirit.” As Rock Daily reported from Comic Con, Ledger’s final performance in Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus will screen later this year.
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• Heath Ledger’s 2006 Rolling Stone Cover Story
• Heath Ledger (1979 – 2008)
• Peter Travers Video Review: A Look at Heath Ledger’s Best Performances