Abercrombie & Fitch’s new advertisement (available here), filmed in Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, is a tour de force of sociological documentary filmmaking. While some critics may see the spot as just another attempt to sell shirts by exploiting sexy models and the retro rhythm and blues of Duffy’s “Mercy,” in reality the piece underscores the dire economic conditions and resulting anomie facing the region.
The opening shot of stately coastal homes and sailboats establishes a seemingly exclusive and monied setting. However, this feint is followed by a reel of hard-hitting economic reality. The black and white format adds the existential gravity of film noir.
The lack of a shirt on the male character immediately symbolizes a grave issue facing young people in Maine today. There is an undeniable lack of well-paying jobs for those in the “recently graduated” demographic. Many of our educated youth are forced to leave the state in search of employment in Boston, New York, or even the West Coast. Those who stay often can’t afford clothes. It may come to down to a choice of wearing a shirt or pants.
There are shots of the young man hauling a row boat to the shore, an indictment of the dying fishing industry. Subsequent scenes of him running with his dog show how Maine men have been reduced to their most primitive state: That of the pre-historic hunter-gatherer who domesticated wolves to aid his survival.
The young woman in the piece also reinforces the theme. Her first extended scene shows her driving. She is coming from somewhere else, both in place and in opportunity. Her face is serious and determined. She knows the hardship her man is facing. The film ends with the couple embracing in a field, though it is clearly established that he will be leaving with her. Oppurtunity and hope exist where she lives. There he will be able to afford pants and a shirt.