The premise of Ikea's "One Room Paradise" music video seems straightforward: As a little girl plays with her dollhouse (doll apartment complex, to be precise), the dolls come to life and give us a glimpse of their happy existence in a small but perfectly (Ikea-furnished) single-room home. But before you can say "Ektorp," the girl's fantasy world becomes infinitely more complicated.
After initially appearing to be a sort of Barbie Dream Apartment situation—a pretty plastic doll wakes up in the morning, opens her closet full of trendy shoes, gets dressed in a pink tracksuit—the story veers, intentionally or not, into social commentary. Instead of giving us a single gal or typical nuclear family, the main players reveal themselves to be a single mother and her son (and, occasionally, grandmother). While it's refreshing (and commendable) that Ikea's version of a family doesn't necessitate a happily married mom and dad, there's something unquestionably off-putting about the entire narrative—especially considering it's supposedly taking place in a child's imagination.
For one thing, the story is set to a song about creating a "one-room paradise" with "the man I love." In that context, the very close mother-son relationship—he dabs her tears when she cries at a movie, and cooks her breakfast in bed after she comes home drunk from a late night of partying—starts to look a tad unhealthy. (It's probably safe to assume Aretha Franklin wasn't singing about her child in the original version.) And the image of a mother doll stumbling through the door after having a few too many drinks will probably raise a few eyebrows, too. (No judgment when it comes to human mothers, but have you ever seen Barbie under the influence?)
Most unsettling of all is the unavoidable uncanny-valley aspect that comes from having the dolls portrayed not by toys shot in stop-motion, but by actors wearing doll masks. The plastic-faced human bodies, contorted into doll-like positions—fingers stuck permanently together, elbows slightly bent—are more creepy than playful. (For an extra dose of creep, watch the "behind the scenes" tour of the apartment, in which the mother doll is voiced by a gruff-voiced man.)
On the bright side, if you can get over the initial feeling of unease, there are some great organizational tips in there!
Agency: Mother, London
Production Company: Riff Raff
Producer: Cathy Hood
Agency Producer: Ellie Gibb
Colour Grading: Paul Harrison
Flame: Judy Roberts
Post Producer: Justine White
VFX: Finish & Mathematic
Editor: Joe Guest @ Final Cut