Above is the magnificent music video for Sting’s “Fields of Gold” (1993). Like most of what Sting gives us, there’s quite a bit going on in this video.
First of all, the video is quite rich in color scheme. This is not to say that it is oversaturated by colors (like when you turn the color setting too far up on the TV or like some of those old horridly “color-ized” black and white films), rather that a good portion of the images are tinted in sepia tones, giving them the feeling of an old, crumbling photograph. Appropriate enough for a song ab0ut memories.
Perhaps the most immediately striking aspect of this video, however, is the fact that Sting’s silhouette acts as a video screen most of the time. The only times we actually see his face is when, surrounded by darkness, he looks up and basks in a glowing light from above–and it’s a good bet he’s not basking in sunlight. Projected onto Sting’s silhouette are a variety of movies depicting the various stages of life: childhood, young love, marriage, and inevitably, the pain of loneliness, which we glimpse when the young woman we see throughout these projected movies is alone and holding up a newspaper, perhaps reading of a horrible event in a war in which her love may have died. This is hinted at as a person in uniform walks past the young woman as she reads the newspaper. Maybe Sting saw these images at other times in his life and is now thinking of them as he ambles about.
Which brings me to my next point–where he’s walking. At first, we see him leaning against a stone cross, a tombstone, perhaps, or at least some monument. But this song is too full of life and love to be restricted to such a grave setting, so we see Sting get up and walk away from the stone cross, ambling through empty piazzas and cobblestone side-streets, all very reminiscent of a quaint Italian village, though long-since abandoned. We see him pass churches and even a book store, advertising books both “old and new” (more on this in a moment). All of this rustic Italian scenery is bathed in darkness with just a few glimpses of light here and there. Nearly everything, however–stone crosses, statues of angels, arches, churches, store-fronts, you name it–is crawling with moss and overgrown vines and weeds, denoting agedness, which is fitting imagery to accompany the lyrical meditations of a man who is at a point far enough in his life to understand the importance of memory.
Regarding the book store: later in Sting’s music career (2003), he released a song entitled, “The Book of My Life,” which was–not surprisingly–a meditation on his life: “There’s a chapter on loss and a ghost who won’t die / There’s a chapter on love where the ink’s never dry / There are sentences served in a prison I built out of lies.” Though the wordplay is a bit richer and more complex than “Fields of Gold,” the latter song is strikingly similar to the former. The book store in the background, therefore, is just a recurring image for Sting–a reservoir of memories both “old and new”.
Lastly we come to the titular fields of gold–what are they? Heaven? Merely a field near these quaint yet solemn rustic scenes through which Sting’s sillhouette walks? Perhaps that doesn’t really matter. What these fields denote in this song is memory, or more specifically, the ability to remember: “You’ll remember me when the west wind moves / Upon the fields of barley / You’ll forget the sun in his jealous sky / As we walk in fields of gold.” It is when walking through these fields, then, that Sting says “you” (whoever that is) will remember him. Interestingly, we never see these fields, but only hear about them, which seems to tell us that the fields themselves do not matter but that what they represent does.
The memories we see projected on Sting’s silhouette become married to the dark and solemn setting about him in the last moments of the video: as he walks towards the camera, the images cast on his body growing larger, we see that the buildings and scenery in the memories match up with the buildings and scenery in the dark and solemn setting, and we realize that the memories took place near the very same piazza, cobblestone streets, church, and book store. The difference: the memories are full of life, whereas the only life in the darker setting is the overgrown tangle of moss, vines, and weeds.
Unlike “The Book of My Life,” “Fields of Gold” is ultimately a simple love song, urging us to first and foremost remember love as we reflect on life. And not just romantic love, either: though there is a great deal of amorous and erotic imagery in the song, there is also the touchingly sentimental line, “See the children run as the sun goes down / Among the fields of gold,” which denotes the paternal joy of watching children play innocently against the calm back-drop of a golden setting sun. Though at first they seem disparate from the lyrics, the memories projected on Sting’s silhouette reflect the recollection of love, whereas the dark and somber vine-entangled setting denotes the emptiness of life without love–or the emptiness of life without memory.
Indeed, what is life but a reaction to, progress from, and forming of memories? If life is memory, then, perhaps what Sting is telling us is that in order to live a happy life, we need to fill ourselves with happy memories.