Harley-Davidson Wants You to Quit Your Dreary Job, Burn Your Clothes and Go Experience Life

Even if you don't do it on a motorcycle

[UPDATE: Harley-Davidson has clarified that the brand was not involved in the production of this spot. "Although we love his work, we were not actually the client. We have contacted his studio and we were told that this work was purely a promotional entry for the Young Directors Award," a Harley rep tells us. Original story below.]

In this two-and-a-half-minute branded film from Germany, a despondent salaryman strives to reconnect with his "inner child" and find meaning in his dreary, white-collar life.

Though the theme is familiar, the visual storytelling (there's no dialogue) is strong; "Inner Child" won this year's Cannes Lions Young Director Award for Best Web Film on behalf of director Andreas Bruns.

When we first meet our hero, he's bathed in muted hues and working late, staring forlornly at the cold lights of the office towers that form the bars of his personal cage. The action flips between the guy's story and scenes of a mysterious boy in black, who represents a younger version of the protagonist. The film chronicles the man's journey to recapture his lost innocence and freedom, with his inner child guiding the way.

Which brand helps liberate his troubled spirit? It doesn't show up until the film is nearly over—and, even then, with an air of profound understatement. This approach elevates "Inner Child," allowing us to focus on the odyssey and fully appreciate what the brand means to him.

That's some voyage of self discovery: Hitchhiking, helicopters, fireworks, barroom brawls, suit-jacket immolation… and kicking the crap out of your own luggage! Part of the film's charm lies in its slightly cartoonish quality, which underscores our hero's sense of desperation.

It's also the kind of quasi-realistic/Hollywood-style adventure many bored, world-weary men fantasize about, a quest in tune with the desires of its target audience. (I can personally attest to that.) 

Bruns says the idea for the film sprang from his own quest to find meaning in life. "About three years ago I struggled with my life so badly that I felt myself not capable of continuing my studies," he tells AdFreak.

"I caught myself just staring at the screen one day, doing nothing. That was the moment I realized that I had to find my way out. It was the same day I booked a flight to Spain." To clear his mind and gain perspective, Bruns hiked the rugged, dusty Camino de Santiago, also known as Way of St. James. "After my return, I knew that someday I would tell a story about this topic."

Bruns' slightly disorienting technique keeps viewers off-balance but also draws us in. And the guy's ultimate meeting with his younger self packs emotional power. What's more, the narrative mostly avoids cliches: In the final shot, our protagonist rides his chopper alone in the desert, and that feels about right—especially since they resisted the urge to insert the oft-compulsory trophy babe affixed to his waist.

"Our project took us 10 days of shooting," Bruns says. "The journey was realized in Spain in and around Almeria, where we found a wide range of different scenery. The world of the 'inner child' was realized in a studio in Hamburg."

Of course, depicting motorcycles as symbols of macho freedom and the cure for a midlife crisis is nothing new. Still, "Inner Child" fires on all cylinders, tempting cube-drones everywhere with tantalizing images of the thrills that await if only they have the courage to hit the open road.


Production Company: Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg / Tempomedia

Creative Directors: Andreas Bruns, Gunnar Heuwold

Director: Andreas Bruns

Director of Photography: Simon Drescher

Executive Producers: Nathalie Kraft, Ruben Steingrüber

Editors: Andreas Bruns, Philipp Ostermann

Compositing & Grading: ACHT Frankfurt

Production Design: Cosima Vellenzer

Composer: Elegy Music

Sound Design: Marvin Keil

Music Supervision: Tracks & Fields

@DaveGian davegia@hotmail.com David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.