The World’s most charming voice - soon on the big screen

Expressen Nöje, 12 juin 1999

It was not enough just to write the music. She also had to take the leading part in Lars von Trier’s new musical film. So that no bungler of a singer ruins the songs. But it is against her will. At this very second she’s dancing around in Sweden’s new film-town, Trollywood in Trollhättan, in a state of anxiety.

– I feel as if I’m unfaithful, Björk tells Nöje.

– I told him that I have no ambitions what so ever in being an actress. That I don’t have any wish to become a filmstar, but he refused to change his mind.

Björk is sitting in her home in Iceland, speaking over her mobile phone about Lars von Trier. The cause is the Dane’s new film "Dancer in the dark", a musical which takes place in the US in the sixties, but is produced in Trollhättan with the slightly improbable role-garrison Peter Stormare, Catherine Deneuve and Björk as the leading actress. Because who had honestly believed that two women as mythic and worshiped as Catherine and Björk would ever place their feet in Trollhättan. Perhaps look at the falls ? Perhaps take a "Half Special" (sausage, bread and mashed potatoes) at Grill-X at Magnus Åberg’s street. And there’s no doubt which of the women that is having the strongest power of attraction.

Everyone’s laughing at Selma

Västergötland and Värmland (where the film team live) have never been so full of rumours since the inhabitants of Karlstad were hunting kangaroos. The wildest so far is that Björk bought a punch ticket to a solarium and gym dressed in nothing but a see-through raincoat.

Björk plays Selma, immigrant from Czechoslovakia who works in a textile factory in order to save up money for her twelve-year-old son’s future. At the same time she’s dreaming of a world where music is everything. Where you solve problems through song, as when the von Trapp family defeated the nazis with "Edelweiss" in "Sound of music".

The problem is that everyone in her surroundings is laughing at her. Pretty much like Björk many times has been the ultimate "laughing party" for those who rather see their million-selling popstars as ordinary as possible.

– This role is in a way designed for me, but you have to ask Lars yourself, but I think the reason why I got the role is because he sees something in me that is in the role. I haven’t dared to ask.

What does he see ?

– The fact that I feel more comfortable inside a song than I do in real life. And there’s a great deal of escape from reality and dreamy in both me and Selma. I only feel safe and calm when I make music or sing. I understand the abstract in music but people scare me. Especially their unexpectency. And that is also true for my own way of being unpredictable.

– Selma is perhaps a little bit more naiv than me, because she really thinks life can be one long musical. I don’t think so any longer.

Parody of Björk

There is a fabulous sketch from the TV programme "French & Saunders" where Dawn French disguised as Björk with freckles and bunches in Icelandic English makes his own Björk-video. Lines like "I am a little escimogrrrl" are mixed with a huge amount of self-centralisation, fuzzy new age and the Icelandic woman’s characteristic girlish way of dancing. I’ve always seen this picture before me of Björk with a little Dawn French-wodoodoll which she’s piercing with needles. But no.

Oh no... And "Dancer in the dark" is damn good just because Lars takes credit and honour from people like myself. It’s healthy to make fun of those dreamy people divorced from reality. Yea, you know...people like me.

You’ve been the world’s "little Miss Different" for quite a long time now ?

– Yes, I’ve lived with the label "different" since I was a kid. I’ve always laughed at it. And I don’t feel bad of people making fun of me. Or... I really like it if I should be honest. Sometimes I take myself too seriously so I need the wallops as medication. But I’ve never told anyone and then people take for granted that I am "oh so sensitive and self-absorbed".

The conversation is interrupted. It sounds as if Björk has dropped the phone. When I get hold of her again after a few minutes I hear a noise in the background as if her twelve-year-old son was playing American football.

– Hello again. But about your concept of normality, if you excuse me for being long-winded. I mean I’ve not met one normal person. And those you think are normal have a l w a y s got some secret hobby they show up after eight years, haven’t they ?

For a long time it looked like Björk was only going to write the music to "Dancer in the dark". Finally Trier succeeded to convince Björk that her songs would be destroyed if somebody else performed them in the movie.

– I’m not the slightest excited about the acting. I love music so much that it feels as if I’m unfaithful to it. It feels a bit dirty. I’m cheating on the love of my life. You know, I refused at first.

– But I’ve warned Lars, I’ve never played theatre before and I haven’t got the slightest scrap of acting ambitions in me (laughs loud and then becomes silent for a long while). But I feel for this girl and I feel for the songs and I’m going to fight for them with my life.

Everybody was there - except for Björk

Last Monday a press conference was held for Lars von Trier’s 120 million project "Dancer in the dark" in Trollhättan. The director was there of course, as well as the actors Peter Stormare, Catherine Deneuve, David Morse and Clara Seymour. But Björk had the permission of Lars not to come.

– The whole film is concentrated on her role as Selma. Björk is in every scene. It’s extremely tough for her and I want her to focus only on her job as an actress, von Trier tells. Remember it’s the first time ever she does anything like this.

It was while watching a video of hers, von Trier can’t remember which one it was, that he understood that Björk would play the leading part in "Dancer in the dark".

– I was completely fascinated of her and screamed right out that this person just has to be a filmstar. And then I will perhaps be able to boast about the fact that I was the one lightening that star.

The rumour says that he and Björk have argued a good deal during the producing ?

– Of course we’re both very obstinate persons.

Peter Stormare’s Jeff falls in love with Björk’s character. And Stormare almost sounds as if he had a little crush on her in real life as well.

– She’s a part of the Nordic light for me who live in Los Angeles. Her revelation is absolutely fantastic and her peering eyes make’s one want to laugh, says Stormare.

– Lars has told me several times not to smile too much right before shooting.

"Lars is magic"

The first Björk wrote for the movie was returned to her. Lars didn’t think she got all the feelings out of her that she should. This must have felt unusual for one of the world’s most self-willed artists.

– But I like Lars precisely because he is always seeking conflicts. But he has also promised to support me to avoid a fiasco. I’m only his tool in this movie. I give up all my will to him. But like I said, I’m extremely excited about the music and I think about it 24 hours a day. Mediocrity has never been my strong point, has it ?

What is it about the music that makes you so excited ?

– The offer came at the exact right time. I’ve been writing about my own feelings now in three albums and I feel good to write about Selma instead. If we all should be honest, there’s more to the world than just Björk (laughs embarrassed). Surprising don’t you think ?

Are you a big fan of Lars ?

– I didn’t know who he was before I got the offer to take part in "Dancer in the dark", but then I saw "Breaking the waves" and I loved it. It could be one of the best films made in the last ten years. Now I’m a big fan.

Why ?

He’s very honest and his not false. He has the courage to be genuine. And he doesn’t compromise when it comes to emotions. When other people constricts their most extreme feelings, he dares to let them loose. He’s magic. When I saw "Breaking the waves" I almost regarded it as physically violent. The emotions were so strong. I ran around in my house during the whole film. I couldn’t sit still, and that has never happened to me before when watching a movie. Afterwards I just felt like celebrating that there were other people with feelings as strong as mine, people who were like me. We’re hiding feelings to much in this world.

So what feelings do you hide ?

– (Laughs) I’m lucky because I have a lot of friends from my teens with whom I can make emotional stunts. I through myself out and they catch me. But when I’m with strangers I hide my feelings. But that counts for all people no matter what job they have, doesn’t it ? In your place of work you’re never really yourself are you ? Only popstars are expected to be themselves at work.

par Mats Bråstedt and Robert Börjesson (Translated by Saga) publié dans Expressen Nöje