In his music, Berlin artist Marshall Vincent often confronts power dynamics in relationships. After all, love is what drives so many of us, even to our detriment. His last EP, 2018's Right Down, and a string of singles released since, including "Desire" and "Saving Face," incorporate R&B's slinkier, more experimental textures to tease out these themes.
In the "Saving Face" video, premiering today on PAPER, Vincent and director Zen Pace show how power can shift when love is unrequited. According to a statement about the video, the couple portrayed — played by up-and-coming models Maurice Jabar Werner and Aaliyah Thanisha of the Kiki House of Hua Mulan — "bring to the screen a visualization and physicality of a deeply personal rupture in their lives."
In scenes of clean white space and natural light, the dancers, who choreographed their routine, seduce and repel, then dominate and submit to one another. The magnetic force of their idealized love draws them together, even when reality — the romance's bitter, drawn-out end — drives them apart. As Vincent sings longingly in the track's crystalline hook: "Don't make the mistake/ To love who you hate."
Pace says that the central story of the video concerns what happens when love turns to resentment, once toxicity has entered the picture. "We slowly lose parts of ourselves to adjust to something more palatable for the other," they say. "This is because sometimes the emotional pain we tolerate is what we believe we deserve. This tension is the driving force of the dance until one partner succumbs to the other."
Vincent adds that the video's goal is to question what happens when a relationship must reach a resolution in a power struggle. How does "Saving Face" over a prolonged time period change a person, so to speak? "Is it about you, or what inspires you? And how does that affect the other person involved?" Vincent says. At some point, the truth must come to light, even if it hurts. Living a lie is far more painful.
Photography: Zen Pace