Cinematography at Its Finest: Lee Hi’s “Rose”

To read my full review of this music video, click here.

An important part of a music video is its cinematography. How the appearance of a video relates to the song can be the difference between a boring or cheesy video and a beautiful and artistic video.  Good cinematography turns singers into artists.

A perfect example of very effectively using cinematography can be seen in the music video for “Rose” by Lee Hi.  She uses her props, backgrounds, and even wardrobe to portray her character as a rose with many thorns.


The video opens with an image of Lee Hi dressed in white and surrounded by white roses.  Here, she is portrayed as the epitome of innocence.  The pillars elude to her imitating the beauty of a Greek goddess.  She is the center of a heavenly room of flowers, thus is the center of purity and innocence.  This is her image on the outside, like the roses on her head, simply beautiful.  No one can imagine the girl in this image to be capable of causing any kind of pain.

However, even in her innocent state, there is still a feeling of being trapped.  While she is surrounded by beautiful things, there is no opening for her or anyone else to leave.  Even in her most innocent state, the message is still conveyed that by entering into love with her, it will be difficult to escape if one ever wanted to.

 blood tree

The image of blood on a white tree couldn’t be any more vivid of the nature of Lee Hi’s character in this video.  She is the beautiful tree who was once innocent, but is now tainted with blood, or a broken heart.  There are thorns on the tree, indicating that her love is dangerous, and the blood is there as proof.

 alone in broken home

In this image, Lee Hi is in a beautiful dress, yet alone in a run-down building.  This is where a potential lover can expect when being with Lee Hi.  Anyone who attains her will see her beauty, but will also be confronted with the destruction all around her.  She is all alone because anyone who has ever tried to love her she has chased away.  It also portrays that her supposed paradise is not so perfect on the inside.

soldiers wolf

The story of the soldiers and the wolf demonstrate all of the defenses Lee Hi has put up around her heart.  She is the wolf, threatening people to stay away from her and her destructive love.  While dangerous, the wolf is white, still sticking to the image of an outward innocent appearance.

The soldiers can represent the men who struggle to get inside her heart.  She has put up so many defenses yet they still keep trying to break through her barriers.  This can reflect both her warning to them that the journey to her heart will be difficult as well as her feeling persecuted by the men trying to take over and control her heart.  She feels hunted, therefore has put up defenses, but is also warning potential lovers that she has defenses, so don’t bother trying to penetrate her heart.


Lee Hi is singing this song as a warning to the world that her love is not a pleasant one, and this is displayed very effectively in the scene where she is surrounded by words.  The words are the English lyrics to her song.  Repeated over and over again, they emphasize the main points of her song: that she is harmful and to stay away from her.  Having her literally tied into the words make them a part of her.  She wants the message of a thorny rose to become part of her entire being so that people are aware and not fooled by her innocent appearance.

Similar to the first scene with the flowers, Lee Hi is trapped in these words.  She both needs to remind others as well as herself that anyone who tries to love her will not be able to escape the hurt.

every rose has its thornsthorn battlefield

This scene isn’t shown until about halfway through the video.  While Lee Hi repeats the words “Every rose has its thorns,” her own body is surrounded by branches and thorns.  There isn’t a rose in sight, emphasizing that it is the thorns that one should be on the lookout for.  Now that she made known that there are thorns, she as well as everyone else can only see the thorns.  Any trace of beauty or innocence is gone from the picture.  The timing of this image was a perfect way of relating the story directly to lyrics.

While this scene is shown, we also see the soldiers from earlier traveling through the exact same scene.  This reflects that the closer they get to her heart, the more thorns they have to encounter.

in the thornsthorny necklace

This was one of my favorite scenes in the video.  Lee Hi is no longer an innocent flower, but a thorny tree.  Her beauty is almost completely blocked by the red and white thorns.  Now, instead of little hints of red, the majority of the scene is red.  She is so desperate to protect others from herself that she is showing her complete true self: a harmful, inhuman creature.  She has completely abandoned the idea of innocence.  Nothing is hidden.  The fact that this comes towards the end of the video give greater impact to her desperate warning.

dirty hands 2

The song is about how Lee Hi is a rose.  While beautiful, her love comes with thorns and pain.  This leads me to question why.  Why does her love come with pain and how did the pain get there in the first place?  The video opens up with this image.  It shows the dirty hands of a man holding wilted roses.  I believe this is meant to show how and why Lee Hi sees herself as harmful to those who love her.

Whiteness usually symbolizes purity and innocence, yet this man has artificial white chalk on his hands.  Underneath he appears grimy and dirty.  This could reflect that Lee Hi once knew someone who appeared to be pure on the outside, but was really terrible on the inside.  The innocence was fake.  He took Lee Hi’s heart (the roses in his hands), lured her inside, and then crushed her, as we see the roses being crushed as the video goes on.

Why does Lee Hi say her love is like a rose, beautiful but filled with thorns?  Perhaps she had already experienced falling for someone who appeared to be pure on the outside, but who destroyed her heart when he revealed his true, destructive self. Because of these scars, she can only associate love with pain, therefore anyone else who tries to love her will be forced to share her pain and scars.  The images used in this video not only portray the words to her song, but also reveal the scars that made her the way she is.

To see the magic for yourself, here is Lee Hi’s “Rose”:


7 thoughts on “Cinematography at Its Finest: Lee Hi’s “Rose”

  1. “While Lee Hi repeats the words “Every rose has its thorns,” her own body is surrounded by branches and thorns. There isn’t a rose in sight, emphasizing that it is the thorns that one should be on the lookout for. Now that she made known that there are thorns, she as well as everyone else can only see the thorns. ”

    SHE is the rose. All those thorns surround her, the rose.

    I agree with you the MV was beautiful, but I think there was a story there, a very small one. All those thorns throughout the MV and no flowers in sight is because she is the single rose and that’s how many thorns she has. The guys invading are trying to get close to her (trying to get her to fall in love with them) by sneaking through her thorns/defenses around her heart but they won’t ever get to her heart. Maybe the number of guys invading (4) represent the number who have tried to win her love. In her lyrics she says something like,

    My love is like a red rose
    It may be beautiful now
    But my sharp thorns will hurt you
    My love is like a red rose
    Yes, I may be fragrant
    But the closer you get, the more I’ll hurt you

    Thorns are her first line of defense.
    “…closer you get, the more I’ll hurt you”
    The wolf is the second. So if they get past too many of the thorns then she sends her wolf (or wolves?) out.

    I think that is also the not shown ending of the MV. The guys die, metaphorically. What it probably means is they end up with a broken heart.

    To support the idea, I saw like one live performance and it was one guy in a suite, dancing around her as she sang, tying to get her love. In the end of the performance he falls to the floor/stage death.

    🙂 Just my interpretation of the MV and lyrics.

    Ps. Please excuse any spelling and grammar mistakes, just got done writing this massive paper (feels like it) and I’m way tired.

    pps. Like your LEE HI posts. She needs to make an MV for Fool in love, it’s awesome.


    1. ppps. I know a lot of the interpretation were the same. I didn’t point out the differences too well.
      1. I don’t think she is the wolf. Like the thorns are a defense she has, but she is not the thorns. I interpret that the wolf is also a line of defense, because the best defense is an offense. But she isn’t the wolf either, she is the rose.
      2. I agree with the white = innocence but i think it also stand for the snow. To show how cold it is. Like a heart of ice, one that will not love.

      The guy with the crushed frozen rose, I didn’t even think that it was the guy who broke her heart. Totallly makes sense.


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