Michel Gondry

When I started to work together with Björk, it was the same thing. So when we did our first video, for Human Behaviour, I was thinking : "Great, we’re going to Iceland and we’re going to shoot a lot of great landscape." And she said no - she had a similar idea as my friend Etienne in Oui Oui, she wanted to use animals to reflect human nature. And it was great, because as soon as she started to throw some ideas, they started to bounce in my mind and imagination and I immediately came back with other ideas, and we did a video that was very collaborative.

This is Hyperballad, with Björk. It was very difficult to choose just one, but in the end I chose this one, partly because I love it, but also because it has a dreamy quality, which fits in with tonight.
Everytime I see it, it makes me think that things get categorised in certain ways - people think of that as a music promo, but actually I would see that as a perfect piece of experimental film-making. Could you talk a little about the creative process to get you to that ?

Björk had a very beautiful idea in this song - she explained to me that the song is about a woman in a relationship, and there are all these inside tensions, but because she wants to preserve the relationship, she goes to the top of the mountain and she lets it go by imagining that she jumps from a cliff and breaks into pieces, thus letting all the negatives out. Then she comes back and she can go on with her life and relationship. That’s what I like about Björk, she’s really a hard worker and she’s very sensitive to the human condition. It sounds so pompous but she takes a very simple, everyday element - like in this case a relationship between a boy and a girl - and find the magic in that, and find how to make it work and use all our creativity to solve problems. So, on my side, once she told me the reason why she wrote this song, I imagined her being dead and alive at the same time. So we had her lying down, with makeup to make her appear dead, and then we had a holographic image of her singing superimposed on her. And this was the first time that I had used motion control, which is this big machine that you can programme and do all this at the same time. So we shot all that on one piece of film by superimposing 14 exposures. I remember my DP was going crazy. He was telling me : "If you screw up one exposure, you’ll ruin all the film." He was against it but I liked the idea that there was a good chance that it could all go wrong, kind of stimulating. And it worked out. We were all sweating when we were projecting this. In my calculations, I had calculated the motion of the camera, but I forgot to add the volume of the screen, and the camera would have crashed into the screen, so right in the middle of shooting, I had to recalculate. But I think it’s really interesting to have a heavy, technical aspect to deal with while making sure that your message comes across. You have to go to the technique to make it happen, so you can’t be too precious about detail, especially in this form of working, where you do everything in the camera. So you can’t look back and say, "Oh maybe that should be a little more blue or green." Those are details, but in the end you just want the piece to make sense.

Guardian Unlimited , Wednesday February 7, 2007