Music Video Film School: “Don’t Go Near The Water” by Sammy Kershaw

The video starts with Sammy Kershaw opening a tiny box to reveal a wedding ring. He inspects it near a river, under a tree. Sammy wears normal attire, with the exception of one item: a large awkward saddle bag. The saddle bag can be interpreted in two ways: on one hand, it’s a MacGuffin of sorts, appearing constantly and seemingly important, but never really amounting to much. On the other, it represents more of Sammy’s youthful wishes and experiences. The wedding ring symbolizes romance and love, and the saddle bag contains other important mementos.

Sammy sees a couple come down to the river, and rather than greet them, he starts to sing. This is a good thing, because when you’re a teenager, the only thing that can improve a quiet moment with your girlfriend is a crooning middle-aged man, sitting alone and holding a wedding ring and leather pouch. The video then spins out of control, which is idiot for “transition in space and time.”

We can see that we are now back in the past since everything is filtered blue, you know, like it all was then. A girl storms out of her house, followed by her mother and father. She heads toward a young man, standing on the walkway to the front porch. The characters mouth Sammy’s lyrics, letting the audience know that this is all part of one story. Sammy and the family are connected somehow. Keep that in mind as the video continues.

The girl and her boyfriend, in a ruthless display of raw, youthful sexuality, sniff honeysuckle by the fence, directly in front of the girl’s parents, hinting that, later, the young couple’s loins will indeed connect. The scene then literally shatters, as we are transported beside the river again to Sammy, who seems to grow more excited at the prospect of teenagers getting it on later.

Back in blue tinted America, the girl sneaks up on the porch at night, only to be surprised by her grizzly specter of a mother. This shock is so great that the director felt the need to shoot it twice. The mother then picks honeysuckle out of the ashamed daughter’s hair, and the audience is treated to an even greater shock than the one the girl received. The plot of the honeysuckle comes full circle. In a fit of passion, the young couple made love right on to the parent’s fence. Then, as punishment for yard sex, the girl is forced to hang laundry with her mother. It is the only fitting punishment for breaking the Puritan ideals of blue America.

We then, in the present (?), get a clear shot of the saddle bag, which appears to have grown larger, mirroring Sammy’s enthusiasm. He is now clapping his hands and doing some odd bounce thing with his body. The film then goes blue for a quick second, before we see the couple from the past enter present day. It’s here that the inevitable twist of the video becomes obvious: Sammy is a ghost. And the couple that has come down to make out near a creek, that’s Sammy as a young man and the girl from blue American history. As a spirit, due to some past transgression, Sammy is now being forced to haunt and dwell at the river side for all eternity, his past replaying before him to remind him of all that he’s lost. The nightmare is a looping image of former bliss and the saddle bag is almost certainly full of screeching souls.

There is a blue montage of the past once more, which cracks apart to reveal the couple coming down to the river again, and waving at Sammy. Does the young girl possess the ability to see the dead? Are Sammy’s paranormal gifts what attracted her to Sammy in the first place? What is reality? Sammy picks up his saddle bag to leave, but that is a pointless gesture. He’s trapped between times. He turns back to look happily at the camera, but we know now that his smile is broken. His eyes long for some semblance of peace.

Peace is one thing Sammy will never know.

-Daniel

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