“All I Want Is You”: from Browning to Fellini


On April the 18th 1989 U2 were in Italy, to be precise in Ostia (near Rome), to shoot the videoclip for All I Want Is You, fourth and last single of the album Rattle And Hum. Directed by Meiert Avis – who worked as director for the band in other videos like I Will Follow, Where The Streets Have No Name and With Or Without You –  the video has some unique peculiarities  in the story of U2’s videoclips: it has a cinematographic style, it has a specific storyline with a particular beginning-development-ending, there are real actors and U2 members don’t appear (excepting for a short cameo).

As Adam Clayton stated during the shootings, the very purpose was to create something truly unique and different from the previous videoclips for Rattle & Hum. They wanted a filmic approach, something close to a classic of the 30s. Furthermore, Edge stated that the very idea was to create a “clear and short” film, a video with a narrative evolution close to the films of the early 1900: a simple beginning, a sudden and unpredictable development that leads to a strong ending.

The diversity  of this video was also in its function, Bono added: while the previous clips were made to explain the songs, this one put itself in a parallel line with the song, giving a different interpretation as regards the original meaning (Bono wrote this song for his wife Ali), moving the theme to solitude and loss.

All I Want Is You, Video - U2 ad Ostia
U2 in Ostia, on the set of “All I Want is You” | Photo By: ©Colm Henry

The story unwinds in winter, on an evocative desert beach, where an old style circus has been erected. The choice to shoot the video in black and white is very appropriate, because it creates a sense of ancient, precious, mystic and it quotes the famous film Freaks (1932).

The video is a clear tribute to Tod Browning’s work and you can understand it both from the main character (a dwarf played by Paolo Risi), and the plot. “Freaks” narrates about a circus in which love stories are born between the members – the most part are deformed and odd. Hans the dwarf falls in love with the beautiful Cleopatra, the trapeze artist, (Paola Rinaldi plays this role in All I Want Is You) but she’s in love with Ercole, the strong man.

In U2’s video we find the same story, but relocated in a romantic/poetic context: in “Freaks”, a horror movie, the plot develops in a totally different way. The editing and the photography refer to Federico Fellini’s neo-realism – who, in that moment, was shooting his last movie “La voce della luna” not far from U2’s set- and also to Wim Wender’s style in Wings Of Desire [1987], which has a lot of common aspects with Avis’ video: the choice to use black and white style, the choice to set the story in a circus and also the love of the main character (the angel Damiel) for the trapeze artist.

All I Want Is You, Video - Bono
Bono in Ostia, on the set of “All I Want Is You” | Photo By: ©Colm Henry

Meiert’s video has a mysterious ending that feeded the doubts of U2 fans for long time: some supposed the death of the woman, others the dwarf’s death, some others stated that in the video there was the metaphor of “the death of love”, because in the final part the camera flies over the scene like a ghost – it’s in this moment that U2 members appear in a short cameo. In 2001 Edge dispelled all doubts telling that the woman died at the end.

A poetic, refined work, intentionally old-fashioned. The images perfectly marry the last song in the album, creating strophes, verses and visual sonnets. Very talented actors and a perfect direction by Avis, who was able to gather the romantic and tormented side of unrequited love. A little masterpiece.


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“Making Of”


Trailer of “Freaks” [1932]


Clip of “Wings of Desire” [1987]

Thanks to Eli @ELIVOX92 and Angelo @NOODLES105 for the translation.


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