BTS WINGS Short Films Analysis

[EDIT]: This thing needs some serious re-vamping, which I hope to do very soon! Now that I’ve got much more material to work with. However, it’s nice to look back and see what some of my initial reactions were.

Out of nowhere on September 5th, BTS’s official channel on YouTube dropped a video titled “WINGS Short Film #1 Begin.” We weren’t quite sure what to make of it, but thanks to an article on NAVER shortly after which announced BTS would release their second full album, titled WINGS, it was clear we were going to have a set of teasers. The only difference is this time the teasers are “short films,” and if the end screen of each of them is anything to go by, there will be at least four in all. (They’re also really artistic, symbolic, and aesthetic, not to mention REALLY well though-out, filmed, and edited).

So I’m going to go through an analysis of the three currently released short films, and I’ll update this post with my analysis of the fourth. I really should just wait until all of them are out, but I’d like to get a head start. (Possible that the fourth could make all my points moot though…EDIT: I CALLED IT >< oh well)

So starting with the first film, it opens with Namjoon’s English narration “The realms of day and night, two different worlds coming from two opposite poles, mingled during this time.” This is actually a line taken from Demian by Hermann Hesse (you can read it free here). So while it’s not totally clear how closely related to that novel this concept will be, there will obviously be some clear connections. I’ll admit I have not read it, but I did read a pretty good summary here. I’m sure I’ll miss some connections since I haven’t read the entire thing, though.

To put it simply, Demian is about self-realization. I sort of think of it like you have to destroy yourself in order to find yourself. There are themes of loss of innocence and the like in the novel. The main characters are Emil Sinclair and Max Demian, the latter being a sort of guide, someone who challenges Emil’s world view and helps him find himself. It’s possible that Demian is like the Greek word daemon, where we get out word “demon.” But “daemon” doesn’t mean “demon” in Greek–it doesn’t have that evil connotation. Instead it refers to a neutral or even a good being, sort of like a ghost.  It can also be thought of as a sort of inner voice or spirit guide. So most summaries of the novel note that Demian was Sinclair’s inner self.

The actual visual of the video opens with a sparse room, where Jungkook is in the midst of a fitful sleep. There is an abrupt cut to a burning piano, and then an abrupt cut to what looks like the image of a bird and shattering glass, accompanied by a car crash sound. That seems to wake him up, and he jolts upright. The bird imagery is important because that’s from the novel. Sinclair paints something for Demian, which ends up being a large bird coming out of an egg (or a globe, as noted in the above summary). Sinclair gives it to Demian, who writes a note to Sinclair that says “The bird fights his way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Who would be born must first destroy a world. The bird flies to god. That god’s name is Abraxas.” This is sort of where I feel the idea of to really be yourself you have to destroy yourself first comes from. Though I’ll admit, I don’t totally get that quote since I haven’t read it…

The next cut is just text on the screen which reads “Because the dawn before the sunrise is the darkest,” which is a line from BTS’s song “Tomorrow.” Then we’re back to Jungkook while an acapella version of a song we haven’t heard plays. He’s holding a drawing that looks oddly like a sketch of Yoongi, but with red (blood?) smudged at his eye.

Okay but then it gets even weirder because the bed in the background moves away and a room with some furniture and a large canvas appears. And it starts to rain. Jungkook starts to paint, but stops, the burning piano reflected in his eye, causing him to drop the small sketch he was holding. But now the canvas is on fire, and there are underwater sounds playing. There’s a close-up of the canvas, which has splotches of color on it, and a raindrop sound effect plays when other splotches of paint (?) drop onto it. Then it begins to melt/the paint runs.

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At this point though I have no clue what the burning piano means, or why the canvas was on fire and then suddenly not. At first I was thinking Dorian Gray, but once it was clear the beginning lines of narration were from Demian, I threw that theory out. There’s some debate about who is sketched on the canvas, and I don’t really have a clear answer either. BUT, I think it’s actually supposed to be ambiguous. Some people say it looks like Jungkook, so he’s looking at himself and watching it be destroyed, which makes sense, but some people say it looks like Taehyung. I thought it looked like Taehyung, but the more I look at it, the more it doesn’t really make sense. Some people have said it looks like Yoongi too. But the point may be that you’re supposed to see more than one person in the portrait. Because in the novel, Sinclair paints a portrait, and he begins to see various people in that portrait, sometimes himself, sometimes Demian, and sometimes another character (Frau Eva). So it may be that it was designed so that we’d see different people in it.

Anyway, while it’s melting, Jungkook’s shaking his head and starting to cry, and then mouths what looks like “hyung.” Is Jungkook supposed to be Sinclair and Yoongi Demian? I don’t really know if the connections to the novel run that deep.

Then there are the sounds of flying birds, so I assume that’s gonna be a recurring symbol. It is called WINGS after all. (There’s also a bird on his shirt). But that goes back to the novel. So does the small sketch, which has changed into a bird taking flight. Jungkook puts it in an envelope, which is reminiscent of the novel where Sinclair mails Demian the drawing of the bird coming out of the egg. The last shot is of Jungkook’s shadow turning into one with wings, so again with the bird motif. If he is supposed to be Sinclair, that could be symbolic of his freedom at the end of the novel.

The ending screen is why we all assumed there would be four teasers, because there’s four dots. And the first one turns into something that looks like feathers/wings.

Moving on to the second one, “WINGS Short Film #2 LIE.” The English narration continues with the next line of the novel (with a couple of pieces left out probably for brevity) “My parents’ house made up one realm…This realm was familiar to me in almost every way–mother and father, love and strictness, model behavior, and school.”

I think I may be more confused by this one than the previous one, because I’m not sure what connections some of it serves. The opening is a painting of a forest. Jimin’s in a stark-white room with a camera and a fake arm that is holding up a card with the feather/wing dot from the end of the first film. It’s set up to look like one of those ink blot tests. I don’t know if it’s significant, but the author of Demian was influenced by Jungian psychology. Jimin is smiling on the camera, but there’s an abrupt cut with loud music to a negative exposure clip of him dancing (grabbing his throat like he’s dying). The ink blot changes to the second dot, which resembles an apple with a bite taken out of it (which we again see at the end of this film). There’s another abrupt cut to the negative exposure dance clip. This could be a representation of one’s insides versus one’s outsides. He’s smiling on the outside but dying on the inside. That ties in well with the themes of the novel.

There’s a transition to a scene with two hospital beds. Jimin is in one but the other is empty, and then a cut to another ink blot with the word “eva” written on it. I’m assuming this is a reference to Frau Eva from the novel, but again I don’t want to tie it too closely to the novel, because I don’t know what the purpose of connecting the members with characters would be.

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Again, Jimin is alone in the hospital room, and there’s a quick cut to pills in a martini glass. Lots of people are drawing parallels between these short films and the HYYH era, even though that is supposed to be over. I was keeping it separate at first, but I think some of these nods back to the HYYH era were definitely intentional. I’ll get into that more later. There’s a street sign pointing to 풀꽃수목원…which I think is a flowering plant arboretum?? I mean HYYH had flowers as motifs too I guess? Sorta?

Okay so cut to an clip of Jimin singing something new, dancing similarly to the earlier cut and also hitting at nothing but air with a pillow. @papercrowns on Twitter translated the lines of the song which go “Caught in a lie / find the me who was pure / I can’t escape from this lie / return my smile to me / raise me up from this hell / I can’t escape from this suffering / save the me who resembles you.” So yeah I think some clear inspiration from the novel here. One could say Sinclair and Demian resembled one another, because Demian was part of Sinclair. There’s also rain/Jimin being drenched and the burning piano again. (WHAT DOES THE PIANO MEAN!?). There’s an apple dropping in the water, which again links to the novel because Sinclair makes up some story about stealing apples at one point, and that is what led to his first experience in the “dark” realm, where he loses his innocence…and Jimin dancing in front of a bathtub and then falling in. I could see Jimin’s entire video being symbolic of an internal struggle, or I could see it being he’s really in a hospital and some of the other scenes are his inner demons.

There’s this weird image of Jimin, the forest, an ocean, and a sun…I’m not sure if that has any meaning with the novel.

There’s a weird horror movie-esque cut with Jimin and an apple. Apples tie to the novel but they also usually represent something like eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There’s a cut to text that says “Let me know the way, stop me, let me breathe” which is a line from “Run.” Then a cut of him eating the apple. Maybe it’s symbolic of sin? More text that reads “My insides are locked up, I’m dying” which is a line from “Save Me.”

Jimin turns the camera around to the forest and then stands there looking at it. Since this occurs after the apple scene, I’m wondering if it’s maybe symbolic of turning the focus from oneself to the outside world and looking upon it with a different view? Because that’s definitely in the novel. Then we get the screen with the dot turning into the bitten apple.

I feel like I said I DON’T KNOW a lot for that one…Oh well.

OKAY SO THE THIRD ONE, “WINGS Short Film #3 STIGMA.” I’m not okay on this one, really I’m not. This was was more painful to watch, and while both Jungkook and Jimin did a great job acting in theirs…Taehyung’s just amazing at acting in his. I think 김태형천재 was on Twitter a lot after this dropped (not sure if it was trending or not, but it means Genius Kim Taehyung lol).

The narration again continues, with another line from the novel that has some parts missing. “…it was the first fissure in the columns that had upheld my childhood, which every individual must destroy before he can become himself…Such fissures and rents grow together again, heal and are forgotten, but in the most secret recesses they continue to live and bleed.” Okay I’m going to call the most important line here the part about destroying the individual in order to become yourself. I think that’s probably the overarching point.

The first scene is Taehyung at a wall of graffiti. He’s scraping at it with a knife, not graffiting like he was in the “Run” video, but there are spray paint bottles near him. If you look closely you can see the thing he’s knifing at says Abraxas, aka the name of the god Demian mentions in the novel. He’s knifing at it as if to mark it out….

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I’m unclear of the role of Abraxas in the novel…what I can find online is that he’s mentioned as a god (in the novel) but elsewhere as a demon…? SparkNotes says he was a god who “combined good and evil.” So there you go, make of that what you will. Like I’ve got nothing yet. Is Taehyung supposed to be representative of Abraxas? A combination of good and evil? Maybe.

He gets taken in by the cops, and it’s clear he doesn’t care, aka this is probably not the first time. He’s asked his name (the text on the screen) and his age. This is cut with scenes of him running aimlessly, alone. The next text on the screen reads “Parents” to which he simply looks away. This is again cut with the scenes of him alone, except this time instead of running, he’s getting beaten up by seemingly nothing. We see what looks like the Virgin Mary with a baby reflected in his eyes (I’m definitely just guessing at that though). He answers the parents question with “I don’t have anything like that.” Ouch.

More shots of getting beaten up. My thought here is that it’s representative of his internal guilt, or perhaps something else he is struggling with. The novel is about fighting against oneself, an internal path to intellectual awakening. This seems to be symbolic of that. It’s like Jimin’s dance scenes from earlier that seem to be “inside” instead of “outside.”

There’s a chained up phone booth, and then he’s lying on the ground in agony. This cuts nicely to a flashback of him lying down in his family’s home. He seems fine here, but the man in the background is clearly drunk, and the woman has blood on her face. So I’m assuming this is his father and either his mother or his sister. She didn’t look old enough to be his mother, and the lyrics of the song later in the film say “I’m sorry my sister.”

There’s a nice parallel of the father drinking alcohol and the cop taking a drink of water, to which Taehyung turns away from, likely a symptom of trauma. His voiceover asks “Why were you like that to me at that time?” I’m not even gonna guess at that. I feel like it’s ambiguous enough to mean anything.

The acapella starts after the voiceover, where we hear the sister line. There’s a white puppy running up to him, and though I have a thing against using white symbols to suggest innocence (because it’s so dang overused and SERIOUSLY GUYS sometimes the blasted white couch is just a white couch and doesn’t mean anything). But here, it actually does serve a purpose. It’s interesting to note that in these scenes, he’s wearing the same jacket he had on in the BTS Begins concert VCRs, and the dog looks like a puppy version of the dog he plays with in those videos. But anyway, that might be unrelated.

The point is there is a puppy, a white puppy, symbolic of youth and innocence. That’s all well and good and he’s happy until the giant cage drops from the sky, symbolic of his crimes most likely. He clings to the puppy like he’s holding on for his life as the cage comes down around them, and when the cage hits the ground, the puppy is walking away from the cage on the outside, leaving him alone on the inside watching helplessly. If that’s not an awesome symbol for loss of innocence, the biblical fall from grace, then I don’t know what is.

This is also cut with a scene of the father abusing the girl (sister I guess?) and Taehyung being angsty (not even being sarcastic, that’s just what it is and it works here). There’s two cuts from the “Danger” music video which is a nice throwback (but I don’t think it means anything or that BigHit planned this from then…you guys give them too much credit for planning sometimes lol).

And the lyrics here by the way are “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, my sister / even if I hide it, even if I disguise it, it isn’t erased / so cry, please dry my eyes / that light, that light / please illuminate my crimes / deeper, I feel like I’m dying / please punish me / please forgive that crime / please.” (credit to @papercrowns on Twitter for translations). This is part of the reason I feel like the scenes of him being beaten up alone are symbolic of internal struggles and guilt, for whatever past crime or sin he has committed.

We cut back to the police station where he asks for a phone call. Then we have the four dots again, and the third one has knife slices through it. The lyrics that show onscreen for his film are from “Whalien 52.”

So as of now, that’s all that’s out. And I’ve summarized it and thrown in some ideas and analysis where I saw fit. However, I am going to relate this back to the HYYH era. I’m not sure yet if that’s where I should take it, but I feel like there are too many parallels and similar themes to not take it there. Yes, HYYH era ended already. I know. BUT, just hear me out.

Judging from the three that are out now, I’m calling this as post-HYYH but still in the same storyline/world. Really the reason I say this is because of Taehyung’s film, because that has the strongest links to the HYYH era. There are some links elsewhere though. Like the car crash sound at the beginning of Jungkook’s film. In “I Need U” he nearly gets run over by a car. But we’re not shown the outcome of that. It could have braked. It could have swerved and crashed, and that’s why he hears it in his dream and it wakes him up. The sketch that looks like Yoongi in that film is also from HYYH. There’s also the point that they seem to be somehow paired by their HYYH pairings (in “Run”). As in, Jungkook’s video has a sketch of Yoongi, Jimin’s video has the pill and hospital/pillow fight reference to Hoseok, and Taehyung’s has the graffiti reference to Namjoon. I don’t know where Seokjin will fit in, but I’m assuming the final film will be his (edit: you were wrong Court…)

Another connection is the painting in Jungkook’s film. He’s watching it be destroyed, as it melts, shaking his head no and mouthing “hyung.” It’s similar to “Run” where he’s trying as hard as he can to get Yoongi to calm down and stop acting out, because he’s destroying himself. As I mentioned earlier, that painting seems to be ambiguous, so it’s not necessarily Yoongi. But it could fit. Maybe that fire is there because Yoongi’s role in “I Need U” was associated with fire??

Jimin’s connects to the HYYH era because he’s in a hospital, where he is in “Run.” The swinging the pillow and the feathers falling down are both similar scenes to that music video, and the pills are from Hoseok’s scenes in “I Need U.” The fact there’s a scene in there of him soaking wet hearkens back to the bathtub scenes where he’s attempting to drown himself in “I Need U.” And of course that bathtub in the background he eventually falls in is just like “I Need U” and “Run.”

Taehyung’s video definitely has strong ties, and like I said that’s mainly why I’m linking this together. I think it’s important that the narration at the beginning of his video is about dismantling the “columns” holding childhood together, aka loss of innocence. His first scene is in front of the graffiti which is what he and Namjoon are caught doing in “Run.” I mentioned he goes with the cops like it’s not his first time, and if we’re going with the idea this is after HYYH, then it’s not his first time. He would have been arrested probably for killing his father (and let off because hello self-defense) and for vandalism who knows how many times.

The scenes of him running around alone are like the themes of the HYYH era, of restless youth and feeling lost or trapped. The flashback to his family’s home sets the stage for what happens in “I Need U,” when he protects his sister (?) from his father by stabbing him to death. He tells the cops he doesn’t have parents, which again fits if he killed his father and his mother was never around, or left, or whatever. The scenes where he’s being beat up by nothing could easily be the guilt of that crime tearing him apart, because what a way to lose childhood innocence. He’s seen the dark realm (mentioned in the novel) and taken part in it. But the scenes with the puppy show his longing for innocence and also demonstrate there is still a part of him that is innocent, and even if he has committed crimes, it doesn’t mean he’s a criminal (nice that it’s titled “STIGMA” I guess). And that’s the link I can see with Abraxas from the novel, since he was supposed to be a god between good and evil, or one who encompassed both. Taehyung’s character has committed evil acts, but he himself isn’t evil. That doesn’t stop the inner turmoil, depicted by his solitary scenes and the dropping of the cage. The scenes of him lying on the ground are similar to the scenes from “I Need U.” There’s a scene with the shattering of the mirror/glass or whatever that is, which mimics when he shatters the alcohol bottle before he stabs his father. This scene occurs right before the puppy walks away, aka right before that crucial loss of innocence. We don’t see who he calls at the end, but this links back to the “Prologue” video where he calls someone (Namjoon?) after he kills his father.

I think there are too many similarities and continuing themes to not relate this back to HYYH. It’s not HYYH, but a continuation in a different way. There are definitely strong ties to the novel, but I guess I don’t know enough about the novel right now to link anyone specifically to characters. I do think there’s a strong case of linking Abraxas (though not a character) to Taehyung, and possibly Eva to Jimin since it’s in his video. But it doesn’t really make sense for him to be Eva. In the video he’s looking at the card that reads “Eva” so maybe it’s just symbolic of looking at Eva, aka looking at one’s ideals. Jungkook could be Sinclair and Yoongi could be Demian…but I think those ties are a little weaker. Again though, it’s highly unlikely they’d go exactly by a novel anyway, because this is something all their own. It has taken inspiration from there, sure, but we can’t expect to find exact representations of characters just for that reason.

The HYYH era was all about the dark times of youth, with several “loss of innocence” themes going on. But it was also about turning out okay in the end, not unscathed but okay. It was about loneliness, feeling lost, and suffering, but also about light, happiness, and recovery. We could even go as far as saying those are the “two realms” of light and dark, the ones represented by Taehyung’s similarities to Abraxas in this new series.

Anyway, I’m really liking these themes, especially the destroy yourself to find yourself one.

Now watch the fourth part come out and screw up all my analysis. xD

EDIT: The fourth one, “WINGS Short Film #4 FIRST LOVE,” came out today and yeah it sorta threw a wrench in some of my musings. But I expected this. What I didn’t expect was for it to be Yoongi–I thought for sure it would be Jin. And since the fourth circle on the end card is still blank, I guess it’s more likely we’re looking at seven or eight films instead of four, if each is to overlap. That of course may not be the case, but there will be more content, aka more chances for me to have to rework things =)

This one starts with the narration, again taken straight from the novel, “There are numerous ways in which God can make us lonely and lead us back to ourselves. This was the way He dealt with me at that time.” The first scene is Yoongi chucking a rock through a window at a run-down music store (?) so he can unlock the door while the alarm blares. Unperturbed, he sits down at the piano and begins to play.

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He doesn’t play for long, and just hangs his head. Is he regretting the impulsive choice he just made? He gets up suddenly when he hears the whistling, which sounds like the whistling from Jungkook’s film. He’s wandering around on an empty street when a car comes out of nowhere, blows the horn obnoxiously, and barely misses him. It keeps going, and he hears the sound of the crash. (There’s the sound of a car crash in Jungkook’s film too). The text that appears onscreen are lyrics from “길” that read “Would I have become different, if I had chosen a different path?  If I had stopped and looked back?” Seems appropriate to our overarching themes of confusion and being a lost youth.

He runs down the road, and there’s a cut of an overflowing bathtub. He’s back at the music store or whatever that place is to find the car had crashed right into it, and there’s melancholy music playing in the background as the piano catches on fire (FINALLY A SOURCE FOR THAT DANG PIANO?) He hears the same whistling sound again, and turns to look, but then turns back to watch the piano burn.

The end card is different this time, as the dot turns into piano keys and then merges with the dot that had become the bitten apple. This turns it into a zigzag pattern, and it replaces the bitten apple in the logo. So that fourth dot is still just solid black, and I’ve been thrown off because I was definitely expecting this one to appear on the fourth dot.

Just going with this title being “FIRST LOVE” and since this seems to be about lost, lonely youth who make bad decisions in their turmoil, the piano could be representative of Yoongi’s first love. That’s why when it catches on fire it makes a large impact. Why would he care about some random piano that’s not even his? That leads me to think of it in more symbolic terms, the car being metaphorical for reality, which literally crashes into his idealized first love, destroying it and providing the harsh reality check we often go through as we grow older.

So now that the focal point of Yoongi’s film is that burning piano, my only guess as to why these briefly appear in Jimin and Jungkook’s films is because it’s connecting the three of them. I mean I really can’t think of why else it would appear in Yoongi’s as a main point, and just make a cameo in Jimin and Jungkook’s, and not appear at all in Taehyung’s. This goes for other things too:

Bathtub: Jimin, Yoongi
Whistling/Car crash sound: Jungkook, Yoongi
Burning piano: Jungkook, Jimin, Yoongi
Shattering glass: Jungkook, Taehyung, Yoongi

So if I go with my earlier idea of linking them to characters in the novel (definitely take that lightly, because I’m sure they’re doing their own thing and it’s not going to line up perfectly), if we consider Jungkook = Sinclair, Jimin = Eva, Taehyung = Abraxas, and Yoongi = Demian, these connections make sense. Yoongi and Jimin are connected because Eva is Demian’s mother. Jungkook and Yoongi are connected because Sinclair’s guide is Demian. Demian is the one who helps him reach his more developed self. Jungkook, Jimin, and Yoongi are connected (via Yoongi’s focal point the burning piano) because Demian is Sinclair’s link to Eva. And Jungkook, Taehyung, and Yoongi are connected because Demian is the one who tells Sinclair about the god Abraxas. (Shattering glass is kind of a weak link though, like I think the bathtub and burning piano are way more convincing symbols).

I think I saw in passing online that whistling actually links the characters of Kromer and Sinclair together (Kromer is a character who is responsible for Sinclair’s first encounters with the “dark” realm). I don’t really know what to do with that so I’m going to assume it’s either coincidence or just another nod to the novel that isn’t supposed to mean anything at all.

The overlapping of Yoongi’s circle with Jimin’s would make sense if we think about them in terms of Demian and Eva, but other than that, I don’t really know. Maybe it’s going to be hints for duets on the album?

I’ll update again once more content is released…until then I’ll stew on what I have O.o

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