I said, We have to shoot in Prague: Director on THAT ‘80s INXS video

INXS filming in the Old Jewish Cemetery

Many music videos have been made in Prague over the decades. But perhaps the best known of all is the 1988 video for Never Tear Us Apart by the Australian group INXS. But why Prague? And how did the recording go in the still communist city? Director Richard Lowenstein looks back on a video shoot for the ages.

Richard Lowenstein | Photo: Mystify / YouTube

Sweeping shots of still unspoiled Prague. Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, even a saxophone player in the Old Jewish Cemetery. The video for INXS’s huge hit single Never Tear Us Apart – which delivered indelible images of the city to millions via MTV – has it all.

Thirty-six years later, its director, Richard Lowenstein, explains how the famous rock band ended up in the Czechoslovak capital.

“I’d been to Prague and I’d been in the Karlovy Vary film festival in 1984, so I’d travelled into the East Bloc. At that stage I had done a few videos for INXS and they’d done very well. They were very keen to get me to launch the album. And I felt like I was in a position of power, like I could call the shots for the videos. So I basically said, I’ll do them, as long as I can do them in Prague.”

Richard Lowenstein | Photo: Juan Pablo Bertazza,  Radio Prague International

The director, who is also Australian, says that the city – pre-capitalism – had a visual appeal that could not be found elsewhere.

“I’d been blown away by how beautiful the city is. But also in that time, it’s a little different now, there was absolutely nothing modern or Western. There were no Coca-Cola signs. It was beautiful and gothic and the Prague you know, but there was also nothing modern. You could imagine Amadeus or something.

“As a filmmaker it was just like, Wow, this could be the 1900s or the 1920s or the 1890s or something. And at that point in time only two feature films had been shot in Prague, Amadeus and Yentl, the Barbara Streisand film.”

The Kick album by the INXS | Photo:  Mercury Records

INXS also made two other clips for singles for their mega LP Kick in Prague; the New Sensation and Guns in the Sky videos were both shot at the Municipal House.

But the main focus of the groups’s time in the city was the epic video for Never Tear Us Apart. And Richard Lowenstein says the shoot did pose certain challenges.

“We liaised through a local production company that had been sanctioned by the state. There was a lot of technical problems, like a lot of the videos used Steadicams. To get the amount of footage I needed, and the shots I wanted, I needed a Steadicam – and a huge crane. These things weren’t available in Prague, so the crane had to come in from Munich. We also had to bring the Steadicam operator and the Steadicam from Munich. Because that kind of technology was just not available in the Eastern Bloc.”

The director says he and INXS are currently discussing restoring the videos using the original material, with a view to screening it in cinemas “like a mini film”.