David Bowie Sings in a Wonderful M.C. Escher-Inspired Set in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth

A gen­er­a­tion grew up watch­ing and re-watch­ing Jim Hen­son’s Labyrinth. Now, their fond mem­o­ries of that musi­cal fantasy—featuring not just Hen­son’s sig­na­ture pup­pets but live actors like Jen­nifer Con­nel­ly and David Bowie—have got them try­ing to turn their own chil­dren on to the movie’s won­ders. Some now regard Labyrinth as a goofy, flam­boy­ant nov­el­ty suit­able for no oth­er audi­ence but chil­dren, but that gives short shrift to the con­sid­er­able craft that went into it. To get a sense of that, we need only take a look at Jim Hen­son’s Red Book.

Hen­son kept the Red Book, a kind of diary writ­ten one line at a time, until 1988, not long after Labyrinth’s release, and it cap­tures intrigu­ing details of the film’s pro­duc­tion. On its site, the Jim Hen­son Com­pa­ny has sup­ple­ment­ed the Red Book’s entries with oth­er mate­ri­als, such as the mak­ing-of clip above, which shows what went into the scene where “Bowie’s char­ac­ter Jareth taunts Sarah (Jen­nifer Con­nel­ly) as she tries to get to her broth­er Toby (Toby Froud) in an elab­o­rate set inspired by the art of Dutch artist and illus­tra­tor M.C. Esch­er.”

Hen­son and his team want­ed to bring into three dimen­sions “Escher’s images of seem­ing­ly impos­si­ble archi­tec­ture where stairs seemed to lead both up and down at the same time. The inabil­i­ty of the view­er to rec­og­nize what is and is not real was a theme the per­me­at­ed some of Jim’s exper­i­men­tal works in the 1960s and was explored at length in the film.” You can watch the still-con­vinc­ing final prod­uct, in which Bowie sings the song “With­in  You” while step­ping and leap­ing from one per­spec­tive-defy­ing plat­form or stair­way to anoth­er, just above. Spe­cial cred­it for pulling all this off goes to the film’s pro­duc­tion design­er Elliot Scott. But from which mem­ber of the team should we demand an expla­na­tion for, by far, the most bizarre visu­al aspect of Labyrinth — David Bowie’s hair?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

David Bowie Paper Dolls Recre­ate Some of the Style Icon’s Most Famous Looks

Watch The Sur­re­al 1960s Films and Com­mer­cials of Jim Hen­son

Jim Henson’s Orig­i­nal, Spunky Pitch for The Mup­pet Show

Jim Henson’s Zany 1963 Robot Film Uncov­ered by AT&T: Watch Online

Col­in Mar­shall writes else­where on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­maand the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future? Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • Cally says:

    Love,love,love the movie.
    One of my favorites as a child, in my thir­ties and I still watch it once or twice a year.
    Can’t believe I did not know about Jim Henson’s Red Book,its fascinating,thanks for link Mr. Mar­shall.

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