Since John Milton’s Paradise Lost was first published in 1667, many artists have attempted to visualize the biblical epic. William Blake created three sets of artworks for Milton’s poem, hallucinatory illustrations of Satan (at the gates of Hell; arousing the Rebel Angels) and Adam and Eve (being tempted, falling from grace). Gustave Doré’s Romantic woodcuts pictured what Milton called “Gorgons, and Hydras, and Chimeras dire.” Salvador Dalí’s 10 color intaglio etchings, from 1974, offered a surrealist spin on Milton’s blockbuster poem.
The latest visualization of Paradise Lost may also be the funniest: a Nintendo-inspired music video featuring Satan, god, Beelzebub, Jesus, and friends as Super Mario-style video game characters. Directed by Najeeb Tarazi for London-based electronic music duo Delta Heavy’s track “White Flag” — off their new EP titled, appropriately, Paradise Lost — it depicts the fallen angel Satan flying back to heaven to apologize to God, represented here as a dark, feminine thunderhead. Role playing game-inspired dialogue and commands (“Return to Heaven?”) pop up along the way.
“‘White Flag’ is about letting your guard down in love,” explained Tarazi, whose technical director credits include Toy Story 3 (2010) and Monsters University (2013). “I wanted to try turning the myth of Paradise Lost on its head and tell a story where Satan apologizes after his defeat and seeks a path of love. In reply to Satan’s apology, God brutally punishes Satan again.”
The three-minute video is not a faithful or exhaustive visualization of the entire 80,000-word epic poem (or even of its SparkNotes summary), but perhaps it will help carry out Milton’s stated mission to “justify the ways of God to men” — or at least to the men of the gaming generation.