Wes Anderson x H&M

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Clocking in under 4-minutes, Wes Anderson’s short film for Swedish clothing company, H&M, is the perfect stocking stuffer for cinephiles. “Come Together” tells the story of Conductor Ralph (Adrien Brody) as he informs the passengers of the H&M Lines Train that inclement weather has delayed their arrival time by a whole half-day, and the passengers will likely miss their holiday plans with loved ones. The short film is a masterclass in camera movement, style, production design, and visual storytelling. Concurrently, it communicates a timely message with the holidays just around the corner.

The opening shot is a window of the train car with a placard under the sill that reads ‘H&M Lines: Winter Express.’ The window shade, adorned with a H&M logo pattern, rolls up to reveal Conductor Ralph as he peers out the window. He moves to his desk, rips the “24” off of the tear-away calendar, and hunches over his workstation to chart the train’s course. He stifles an interruption by an employee, and in less than thirty seconds we know the entire set-up of the short film. There’s horrible weather outside, the conductor is frustrated by their challenges, and it’s Christmas day; an entire first act in the amount of time it takes to reheat a slice of pizza.

It’s convenient that H&M’s short film was released this week right on the heels of my last blog post about the Long Take. Wes Anderson utilizes the long take for the first minute and forty seconds of the film. In it, we are shown the world of the train and the characters that inhabit it. It’s reminiscent of  where the train almost acts as a cross-section of the setting. The long take adds dimension, emotionality, and reveals characters through carefully curated mise én scene.

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It was striking, as it always is with Wes Anderson films, to see how the environment added depth to each character. The windows to each passenger’s cabin acted like portholes into their own worlds. If you notice, each stack of presents in each of the windows has a photo attached to it. For the little boy, it’s a picture of him and his family; for the younger woman, it’s of her and her dog. The set design and the art direction aids in showing the story alongside minimal camera flourish.

The camera and art direction in the short film catapulted this bite-size short film into a piece of content worth studying. H&M’s effort landed them on the front page of several news outlets: Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Adweek, and others. The branding was subtle; if you weren’t paying attention, you might have missed it. However, the most obvious product placement is the wardrobe for the actors––it’s all part of H&M’s winter line of clothing.

The messaging of the branded content is the clear winner. In a timely, universally beholden theme for the holiday season, H&M calls us to come together in harmony and friendship. It’s about reaching out to your neighbor and celebrating our common humanity. There wasn’t one bit of “HALF OFF OF KNIT SWEATERS” or anything of the sort. The film advertised using the head and the heart; not the sale. Also, they released it right around the height of shopping season, yet it wasn’t quite an advertisement. H&M used Wes Anderson’s cinematic prowess to create a compelling piece of media that would bring attention to H&M’s values and company culture (also featuring their clothing). It’s the perfect blend of storytelling and branding; like cookies and milk.

By Benton Olivares