March 9, 2011

The Killers: 'When You Were Young'

Tlayacapan has long been noted for its spiritual landscape. Ever since the Augustian monks flooded in, between 1534 and 1574, monasteries, chapels and churches have dominated the area. The largest of all, the monastery of San Juan Baustista (St John the Baptist), towers over everything else. It contains the biggest church in the entire state of Morelos; and it is part of a complex which was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994.

With such scenery to use, it's hardly any wonder that The Killers chose this town as the location for their seminal 2006 music video, 'When You Were Young.'

The story is told in a series of flashbacks. A young woman (Sonia Couoh) takes up the position of a cook/barmaid in a bar. Her entrance interrupts the flirting between the bar's owner (Gustavo Sanchez Parra) and a female patron. The look which passes between employer and new employee is enough to tip the customer off. These pair are attracted to each other; the customer has lost her chance, so she storms out. The camera pans to the next room, where The Killers are playing to a packed crowd. The young woman and The Killer's singer, Brandon Flowers, exchange a long, meaningful gaze, as Flowers warns, "He doesn't look a thing like Jesus."

The young woman and the bar-owner become a couple, with religion ever in the foreground. She is a devout Catholic, praying in various locations, while her boyfriend waits outside. They are eventually seen getting married, with their family surrounding them in a joyous scene.

Fachada principal de la Capilla de SantiagoFachada principal de la Capilla de Santiago, in Tlayacapan

Another flashback shows how it all goes wrong. She returns home one day to find her husband in bed with another woman. It is the woman from the bar, who had been so angry when the couple first met. While the bar-owner moves to reach his wife, his mistress pulls him back onto the bed. His wife rushes out, utterly distraught. She eventually ends up on a high mountain, topped with a white cross, looking out over the town.

There are two endings. In the mainstream version, her husband catches up and the couple are reconciled. In the alternative version, she leaps to her death from the summit, before he can reach her.

Fachada principal de la Capilla de SantiagoCapilla de Santiago, as seen in 'When You Were Young'

Mexican film director, Carlos Reygadas, was brought in to create the music video. Based in Mexico City, Reygadas was a United Nations worker, turned movie-maker, who usually focused on full-length feature films.

At the time when 'When You Were Young' was being shot, Reygadas had just received world-wide notoriety for his film, 'Batalla en el Cielo' (Battle in Heaven). It had competed in the Cannes Film Festival, but was remembered mainly for the scenes of graphic sex, with religious undertones. Several commentators have pointed out the common themes between 'Batalla en el Cielo' and those in 'When You Were Young'. Both also had scenes were a protagonist climbs a mountain peak, adorned with a cross, and looks out across the vista beneath.

A scene from 'When You Were Young'

It used to be just Christian pilgrims and Chinelos dance aficionados, who made the journey to Tlayacapan. These days the local people are getting used to meeting fans of The Killers. Visitors to the town will easily find someone to show them around the locations, where the video was filmed.


  1. Obrigado pela descrição do video.
    Sou do Brasil e estava a procura disso a muito tempo. Parabéns!

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