Freedom song

Advertising - Ross Diamond says the new Levi's promo is all talk and no trousers

An intense young man is pacing a bleak, strip-lit room. Melancholy, stately orchestral music and the unkind lighting compound the feeling of confinement, when suddenly he breaks into a sprint, crashes through the end wall, and keeps on blasting through room after room in a series of explosive hurdles. The scene cuts to a washed-out, institutional corridor and our man bursts through the wall, surges across the screen and is gone, just ahead of a young woman doing exactly the same. We follow them as they hurtle through monotone rooms, oblivious in their own private storms of debris.

Abruptly, they stop and, for the first time, eye each other. Unspoken understanding flickers across their faces - they are young, they are beautiful and they know something we don't. An almost-smile passes between them and they start to run again. Finally, they career through a crumbling exterior wall and immediately, they surge up the vertical trunks of towering trees. On they rush, up into indigo space, where they float, suspended on their way to the stars, with the strapline "Levi's R Engineered Jeans: freedom to move". All that effort, just to sell trousers . . .

Once upon a time, Levi's did have genuinely iconic status, so the idea of a clothes company selling "freedom" is not quite as absurd as it initially appears. The institutional, vaguely eastern European austerity of the rooms from which the two chisel-jawed actors break out recalls the days when the very idea of "blue jeans" was enough to make one half of Europe envy the other (well, that and their "freedom to move").

The times, however, have changed. Add the stylistic influences of post-Berlin Wall and post-rave youth culture to the horrific fin-de-siecle vision of prime ministers and presidents in jeans, and it seems that this hard-wearing product finally wore thin some time in the 1990s. As a result, Levi's has re-engineered its product and its advertising.

The 60-second epic was directed by Jonathan Glazer, a man responsible for stylish and inventive pop promos for the likes of Radiohead and Jamiroquai, as well as the recent multi-award-winning series of Guinness adverts and the British heist movie Sexy Beast. All cool muted greens, this bloodless, silent film (pretentiously entitled Odyssey) took roughly two months to complete, with much of the work carried out in post-production. As the two actors leapt through non-existent walls, small cannon blasted bruising cork and dirt at them; computers subsequently generated the solid-seeming walls and Freudian forest to create the illusion that youthful will-power can transcend restrictive - if beautifully lit - reality.

The unspoken recognition which passes between our protagonists demonstrates precisely the quality that Levi's is selling, mirroring the way that young people (allegedly) always know instinctively what is "cool". The message is that these brave, spontaneous and, above all, young role models automatically relate to the product - which itself, crucially, barely features.

This stunning work allegorises teenage angst well, but in these post-No Logo days, it is so artfully and expensively crafted that you cannot help but be struck by the banality of the product it promotes at its climax.

As the text, which gives the only evidence as to what we are now supposed to go out and buy, appears right at the end of the film, the two models remain hanging in space - and Levi's hopes that its target audience is reminded of The Matrix, but is too young to be looking for the wires of Thunderbirds.

Ross Diamond is a musician and manager of community involvement projects in south London