I hereby present all the symbolism I've found in the BTS music video for Blood, Sweat & Tears. I've analysed statues, artworks, 'Demian' quotes and more, in an attempt to understand the convoluted music video.
At the beginning of the music video, the boys enter an art museum. There are lots of statues to examine here.
Let's have a quick look at what's going on.
Rap Monster is reading a book to Jungkook. I'm going to assume that he's reading 'Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair's Youth' by Herman Hesse, since the quotes Rap Monster read in the Wings short films (and in this music video too) are from 'Demian'.
Towards the end of this music video, Rap Monster reads another quote from the book:
"He too was a tempter; he, too, was a link to the second [world],
the evil world with which I no longer wanted to have anything to do."
In 'Demian' this is a quote in which Sinclair thinks about Demian who is a friend and mentor to Sinclair.
The story of Sinclair and Demian makes me think about how BTS have been paired off for the purpose of this MV; a younger member with an older mentor-like member.
1. Jungkook and Rap Monster
2. Jimin and Suga
3. V and J-Hope
If you truly want to uncover all the symbolism in this new MV and the short films, I urge you to read 'Demian', as it's all very complex to talk about here... You can read 'Demian' online here.
Now let's have a look at the actual room that the opening scene of the MV reveals, and mor importantly, what is in it. While Jungkook and Rap Monster are busy reading their book, V and J-Hope are admiring a statue. So let's do the same...
[If you don't want to know about the statues, scroll down until you see a screenshot of Jin looking at that big painting.]
I shall start with the statue that J-Hope and V are admiring. I was unable to find the original but my art background tells me that it looks an awful lot like a Four Seasons statue of Autumn.
Four Seasons statues are four piece sculpture sets, one sculpture for each Season. The Autumn sculptures are usually depicted with a goblet in one hand and in the other grapes, or another such autumn harvest. Autumn is a time of transition during which wine is typically made (grapes mature into wine, which has historically been associated with intellect).
The statue to their right (torso and head) is a torso extract of the famous sculpture 'Laocoon and His Sons' which is often talked about as being the icon for complete suffering and agony.
The statue behind the Autumn sculpture seems to be an extract of 'Marble Statue of a Youth' which is a Roman copy of a Greek sculpture that represents Youth (ties in nicely with BTS's usual themes, doesn't it?).
We'll get to the bronze statue in a bit, where we can see it better, but first let's take the remaining statues.
When they first enter the Museum we can see the many statues and to the very left of the room is another famous one. 'Venus de Milo' by Greek sculptor Alexandros of Antioch-on-the-Meander. It is thought that Venus originally held the Apple of Discord in her left hand.
The Apple of Discord was a gold apple that gave eternal beauty. Three goddesses fought over this Apple, and their fighting escalated so much that it started the Trojan war, which is why it's called the Apple of Discord.
So we have Youth, beauty, and an Apple, which tie in well with everything else we see in the music video.
Here we see Suga and Jimin with a statue and it's not just any statue. The statue represents a crouching Venus, surprised in her bath. There are many versions of this motif. This piece is called 'Vénus Accroupie' by an unknown artist found in the French King Louis XIV's collection.
Venus is a Roman goddess often associated with love, fertility, seduction and desire. She is also a mother figure who is said to be the mother of the Roman people. It is precisely desire and motherhood that I see as the important symbols from this considering the other symbols we'll discuss in this MV.
Before we move on to other things, there is a statue that I promised we would get back to.
This is the sculpture 'Perseus With the Head of Medusa' by Benvenuto Cellini. It presents Perseus winning over Medusa who had hair made of snakes that could turn any man into stone.
In the context of this MV, I place importance on this statue as a symbol of overcoming evil and also of exposing that evil doesn't last forever (or rather that evil and good go hand in hand, and that one cannot truly exist without the other).
Here we have a painting that many bright Armys have recognised as 'The Fall of the Rebel Angels' by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
This introduces the theme of fallen angels which continues throughout the MV. It is interesting to note that the fallen angels in this painting are also partly beastly and half human and half demons or monsters.
The classical piece of music that plays in the background at this moment of the music video is Bach's 'Mass in B minor'.
We might also note that there is a door on either side of the painting. One white and one black. More references to opposite choices and opposites co-existing.
Uh the music is about to start!
They are assembled in a room and Suga covers Jimin's eyes. This symbolism is repeated later and I'll treat it then.
In the background there is a neon sign with English writing. Only part of it shows, but I believe it says: "The Tempter" which would tie in with the quote from 'Demian' that Rap Monster recites in the MV.
Behind the Neon lights is the painting of 'The lament for Icarus' by H. J. Draper.
Icarus was trapped on Crete with his father. Icarus' father made wings out of feathers and wax for them to escape the island. His father warned Icarus not to fly too low so the humidity from the sea would not ruin the wings and also asked him not to fly too high so the sun would melt the wax that kept his wings together.
Icarus ignored his father's warnings and flew too close to the sun. The wax melted his wings off and Icarus fell to his death.
This painting is famous for depicting Icarus with his wings intact and beautiful, even though the legend states that the wings were ruined and fell off when the wax melted.
Out of all the paintings of Icarus that they could have chosen, I believe there is some significance in the fact that they chose this one.
We continue see Jungkook in the same room as where they were all assembled were earlier. Here he is on a swing and seems almost like he is flying, and later in the MV he really does fly (or levitate).
This refers back to the book 'Demian' that Rap Monster reads to Jungkook. In the book Sinclair says that he is afraid of dreams in which he is able to fly.
Pistorius is a mentor figure to Sinclair and an organ player (like how Suga plays the organ in the MV). He tells Sinclair that this fear Sinclair has of his flying dreams.
"It is the feeling of being linked with the roots of power, but one soon becomes afraid of this feeling. It's damned dangerous! That is why most people shed their wings and prefer to walk and obey the law. But not you. You go on flying. And look! You discover that you gradually begin to master your flight [...] Lacking that, you would be drawn up to the heights, powerless - which is what happens to madmen."
Guys did you see that? Sinclair' organ-playing mentor, Pistorius, indirectly tells him about Icarus! It's all beginning to come together.
Here we have Rap Monster with a green liquid. The liquid is called Absinthe, or the green fairy. It's a hallucinogenic alcohol. It's prepared by putting a spoon over a glass of Absinthe and melting a sugar cube on it (traditionally with a candle like Rap Monster does).
Absinthe was a very popular drug for writers in Paris in the 1900s and when you look at Rap Monster's room it seems to belong in the same era. There are books all around and remember that Rap Monster is the one who always reads aloud. He is the writer in this story.
Likely he is Herman Hesse, the author of 'Demian' who lived from 1877 to 1962, exactly during the time at which Absinthe was commonly consumed by writers all around Europe.
Later in the MV Rap Monster gives the tempting drug of Absinthe to Jungkook. He tempts Jungkook to the dark side (Boy Meets Evil).
We get an image of a painted bird which ties back into 'Demian' and the short films.
In 'Demian', Sinclair also paints a bird:
"I had painted something, a bird struggling out of the globe. I sent him this painting. After a time I found a piece of paper with the following words written on it: 'The bird fights it's way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Who must be born must first destroy a world. The bird flies to God. That God's name is Abraxas.' [..] We may conceive that the name [Abraxas] as that of a godhead whose symbolic task is the uniting of godly and devilish elements."
This might sound a little complicated right now, but it's the main theme and by the end it'll make sense.
Rap Monster and Jungkook's room is full of green smoke, and the also comes into Suga's room, which is directly above Rap Monster and Jungkook's room. The green fairy smoke affects him too.
J-Hope sits with an arrow (I know some people have been saying a sword, but if you enlarge the image you can clearly see feather fletchings on the arrow).
Behind him is Michelangelo's famous sculpture 'Pieta' which depicts Virgin Mary with the dead body of her son Jesus after his crucifixion before he was placed in his tomb.
It is worth noting here that the face and upper body of Jesus has not been carved, although it has in the original work. This seems to be symbolism for Jesus still being under construction.
BTS are in the process of choosing their path and are hence under construction themselves.
J-Hope later fires off his arrow at an image of V. This suggests that he is the destroyer of evil (like Perseus destroyed Medusa, remember that sculpture?)
His arrow hits V and multi coloured blood splashes out (like at the end, and we'll get to the meaning of that).
Let's also note that J-Hope sits in a Roman Bath. In Roman culture the bathhouse was a place where one would go to have a conversation. It was more than a simple place of cleansing, it was a place where decisions were made.
This is where J-Hope makes the decision to oppose V. Remember that J-Hope and V were paired up together at the release of the photos, and stand together at the beginning of the music video?
J-Hope is the mentor figure to V, but he sees that V goes too far, so he comes to the Roman Bath to think. Here he makes the decision to end it all. He makes the decision to act like Perseus and rid the world of V's evil.
They all assemble for a supper. This seems likely to be a reference to The Last Supper, which took place before Jesus' crucifixion.
At this supper Jesus predicts that he will be betrayed by someone seated at the table (this turns out to be Judas) and also predicts that Apostle Peter will deny knowing him in the morning.
Jin sits at the head of the table and hence represents Jesus. It is also Jin who raises his silver chalice to give a toast. If Jin is Jesus then V seems likely to be Judas, the one who will betray Jin.
(Remember the Virgin Mary with Jesus statue? Jesus was not fully cut out as he was still developing, as is Jin!)
There is nothing to eat on the table apart from one apple on each of their plates. Apples often represent wisdom.
In reference to Christianity, they are also often said to be fruits that Eve bites into in Paradise. To eat a fruit from the tree in Paradise is said to give knowledge, both of good and evil.
At the supper the boys are all presented with the opportunity to get knowledge of both good and evil, but no one is shown taking a bite.
Except... remember those short films..?
In his short film, Jimin took a bite of an apple.
In the MV we see Suga and Jimin in Suga's room. Jimin, who has eaten an apple and has knowledge of good and evil, holds an apple out to Suga. But Suga doesn't want to eat the apple. He has been corrupted by the green smoke from Rap Monster and Jungkook's room (which we're being reminded is right bellow Suga's room). Suga holds out a blindfold instead.
In the next scene we see Jimin blindfolded (presumably by Suga, just like at the beginning of the MV) and tied to the room. Suga wants to shut Jimin's eyes to the knowledge he has gained through the apples.
Remember that 'Demian' quote about flying earlier..? Well it might apply here. Are we to understand that Suga has tied Jimin up because he is afraid of being linked to the roots of power? He is afraid of flying and realising his true potential, just like Sinclair was.
Next we see V sitting at the edge of his balcony. From this angle we see the scenery he has been looking at it, which is the painting 'Landscape with the Fall of Icarus'. At that sight V jumps and falls down.
Just like Icarus, V is missing his wings because he flew too close to the sun.
Remember the other 'Demian' quote from earlier? ("I had painted something, a bird struggling out of the globe. [..] The bird flies to God."), which is in the heavens and close to the sun. Icarus (V) flew too far up, too close to the sun, and for this reason he falls (into darkness).
On a side note, this is the same painting that is on the wall to the right in the room inside which Jungkook flies, where the painting of Icarus with the perfect wings also hangs.
Suga plays the organ, taking on the role of Sinclair's mentor, Pistorius.
The piece Suga plays is mentioned in a passage from 'Demian' that I'll get into now.
In this passage from 'Demian' Sinclair talks about his new mentor the organ player and philosopher Pistorius:
"And for our next meeting he had promised to play an exquisite piece of old music,
an organ passacaglia by Buxtehude."
A-ha, it is precisely this piece that Suga plays on the organ: Passacaglia in D minor by Buxtehude. Another direct connection to 'Demian'.
The boys are running out of the museum, all except for Jin, who lingers behind. V approaches him and covers Jin's eyes (like Suga covered Jimin's eyes to the knowledge). When V removes his hand (Jin's blindfold), Jin sees a large statue with black wings.
Meanwhile the veil that has covered V throughout this MV is lifted and his back is exposed. We see two black marks from where his wings were attached.
V has jumped off the balcony (without his wings), like Icarus, and just like the painting in the room in which Jungkook flies, the Wings are intact here, on this statue.
We should note that the wings are black and this goes nicely with the lyrics which state that the wings were that of evil (or the devil).
Let's recall Rap Monster's 'Demian' quote that he recites a few moments before this:
"He too was a tempter; he, too, was a link to the second [world],
the evil world with which I no longer wanted to have anything to do."
Jin approaches the winged statue.
As he approaches we see a bust in the background, to the left of the mirror. The bust is an extract of a famous sculpture of the goddess Artemis, 'Diane de Versailles' by an unknown sculptor. Artemis is the goddess of hunt and, perhaps more importantly protector of young girls and goddess of virginity.
Jin kisses the statue.
Again this might connect with 'Demian'. In the last chapter of the book we witness a kiss as Sinclair parts with his mentor Demian, who we learn is a part of Sinclair himself, and not a real person. In this scene, when Demian reveals that he resides within Sinclair, he tells Sinclair:
"'Frau Eva said that if ever you were in a bad way I was to give you a kiss from her that she sends by me...Close your eyes Sinclair!' I closed my eyes in obedience. I felt a light kiss on my lips where there was always a little fresh blood which would never go away."
This is Jin, acting as Demian (on behalf of Frau Eva) by kissing the statue.
Remember a little earlier at the supper when I said that Jin was like Jesus and V was like Judas? What if this comparison goes deeper?
Soldiers were searching for Jesus and Judas identifies Jesus for the soldiers by means of a kiss, and hereby betrayed Jesus - with a kiss. What if Jin here identifies V as the winged and fallen Icarus by means of a kiss, in the same way Judas identified Jesus?
Now this is where things really come together.
Colours are exploding all around J-Hope. He sits and looks defeated because earlier in the MV he shot an arrow at V to defeat evil, but V still managed to get to Jin.
The statue Jin kissed begins to weep and bleed in different colours, and so does Jimin as his blindfold is removed.
Now that the blindfold is removed the knowledge of good and evil is all that remains and this is why the next few things happen, because the fabricated world of paradise can no longer exist with this new knowledge of both good and evil.
Jin approaches a mirror. Above it is a German phrase by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche that translates to:
"You still have to have Chaos inside you
in order to be able to give birth to a dancing star."
This is when the statue of the weeping Virgin Mary that was behind J-Hope falls to pieces.
In the lore Virgin Mary is pure and good, but she gave birth to a dancing star (Jesus), and hence according to Nietzsche she has to have Chaos inside her.
This ties into our quote about the egg from 'Demian' earlier;
"The bird fights it's way out of the egg. The egg is the world.
Who must be born must first destroy a world."
The illusion of paradise is broken, by Abraxas, the god who symbolises both good and evil. The realisation that there is evil in the world, and inside us all, tears the world apart.
As Jin approaches the mirror the reflexion is entirely black, which links to
Jin acknowledging the truth of Abraxas, and the evil within himself.
Next to the mirror there are some flowers. The first are Lillies. A Lily flower is often associated with birth and motherhood.
The other flower is likely Liatris. A common name for Liatris is: blazing star (sound familiar? Like a dancing star?) the flower is often given as a romantic gift and signifies a desire to try again.
A flower that signifies birth and one that signifies trying again, this all points to Jin being reborn after opening his eyes to the knowledge of both good and evil.
But the theory goes even deeper! Now pay attention. The flower vases are the same and they are too close together and are missing reflections, which means that the reflection of the lily in this mirror is the Liatris!
There are different flowers on each side of the mirror.
Now in literature and art, looking into a mirror is often a way for characters to realise a truth about themselves or a way for them to look inwards into their own minds. The fact that the flowers are different on either side of the mirror, in my opinion, signifies that Jin is looking into another world;
"the other realm, the evil realm,
with which I no longer wanted to have anything to do."
Remember this quote? It's what Rap Monster recites in the MV!
The quote recited over an image of Jin who starts to realise where he is. In the MV Jin is in the evil world and when he realises this, he also doesn't want to have anything to do with that realm. When he looks into the mirror he sees Abraxas' first realm (the good one), but over there his face is being torn apart, because Jin can no longer live in just one of his realms, since he has gained the knowledge of both good and evil, he can only live in a mixture of the two!
Jin is the mother figure, like Virgin Mary in that he represents what is pure and he wants to unlock his full potential and fly. He wants to shape the Jesus in the sculpture, but to do this (to give birth to a dancing star), he has to have chaos inside him and this comes through when he kisses the statue. Chaos erupts.
When Jin looks into the mirror, his own face is falling apart, just like that of the Virgin Mary statue.
This ties into the quote above the mirror. No one is truly pure, there must be chaos in order to achieve greatness. In order to fly.