Happy to be a one-hit wonder

Sydney Morning Herald, 6 octobre 2000

Bjork is content to be a one-hit wonder - as a movie actress.The eclectic pop singer, who has sold seven million copies of her solo CDs, says she always intended that her starring role in Dancer in the Dark would be a one-shot deal.

That’s not because of her already legendary clashes with director Lars von Trier, Bjork says in the sometimes tentative, lilting voice that is a hybrid of her native Iceland and several years in Britain - a kind of Danish cockney.

"The reason I don’t want to act is not because of this film, that it was difficult or something like that. I felt like that before the film," she says. "I made an exception and decided to act once. ... But I think I should stick to music. I feel pretty loyal to music."

Bjork, who won the best actress award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, thinks too many people are "fiddling" with too many things - and she doesn’t want to be one of those dilettantes.

"I think there are too many dentists who want to be race-car drivers, and too many race-car drivers want to be dentists."

So she’s returning to her first and abiding love, feeling a little unfaithful.

"There were periods in this film when I felt like I was having an affair from music, that I felt dirty," she says. "Because music has always been the place that sorts me out. Everything can go horribly wrong, but there’s always music."

The 34-year-old singer is recording a new album, due out next spring, and is happy to be working again with people she calls "like-minded" - "so you don’t have to go from A to Z about how you feel about the big issues in life, because you kind of know."

"You can just go straight to the jokes," she says, with a little laugh.

The chuckle is a bit rueful because she and von Trier sometimes were anything but like-minded while making Dancer in the Dark, which took the best film prize at Cannes.

It’s true Bjork walked off the set for a few days during filming. But it wasn’t a matter of a temperamental diva throwing a hissy fit and sniffing : "I’ll be in my trailer." She did it as the film’s composer ; her music was being changed without her being consulted.

She and von Trier didn’t have a contract - "everything was done on this sort of old punk ethic, based on trust" - and she was upset that the music was getting chopped up and changed.

So she wrote a "manifesto," demanding final say over the movie’s music. The Danish director, who had made a splash with Breaking the Waves, relented and signed it.

"Definitely, did not eat clothing," she says, smiling, denying one of the wackier reports of her behaviour. "I don’t know where that came from."

Bjork initially was just going to do the music for Dancer in the Dark, but then she read the script and fell in love with the main character, Selma.

A Czech immigrant working at a kitchen-sink factory, Selma is going blind from a congenital condition. She’s scrimping to save cash for an operation to keep her 12-year-old son from the same fate.

"I felt strongly about protecting her, because I thought I knew her pretty well," Bjork says. "We got a lot of things in common."

A single mother with a 14-year-old son, Bjork concedes : "I’ve been very lucky. All of my dreams have come true - and more so. And it’s sort of the opposite with her, right ?"

Sure enough, Selma, with her thick glasses and bedraggled appearance, is a sad waif trying to find the tiniest specks of happiness - a far cry from the glamorous existence of an international pop star. (On the day of this interview, the cherubic songstress with the almond eyes is dressed like a Christmas present from the Far East : She’s wearing a pink, knee-length, Chinese-print coat with blue-grey pants and a round blue ribbon with two feathers in her hair.)

But, Bjork says, "I probably would have reacted like her in the circumstances she was put in."

In the movie, Selma is violently, fatalistically protective of her boy ; in real life, Bjork once knocked down and kicked a television reporter who stuck a microphone into her then-11-year-old son’s face.

Selma and Bjork both like to escape into their own heads and enjoy the music they imagine, and both are introverts. Bjork thinks the movie makes a statement about introverts, who she thinks are misunderstood. "We’re so self-sufficient and so euphoric on our own that we don’t need a lot of the things that the common world has to offer," she avers.

For both Bjork and Selma, just taking a walk brings joy. "That for me is a sign of strength."

Bjork was the only child of a father who was an electricians’ union chief and a mother who practised homeopathic medicine and taught martial arts. Her parents divorced when she was one. At age five, she began 10 years of classical training as a musician, and by 11, she recorded an LP that gained her some fame in her homeland.

As punk and new-wave music made it to Iceland, she formed several different bands during her teens, the last one morphing into the Sugarcubes, which launched her career and led to a brief marriage to fellow Sugarcube Thor Eldon, the father of son Sindri.

Her 1993 solo album Debut and 1995 follow-up Post sold about three million copies each. Her last album, Homogenic, didn’t fare as well. Now Selmasongs is out as the companion CD to the movie.

Bjork says she has a musician’s attitude - one she characterises as "most selfish" - toward the polarised, love-it-or-hate-it reaction the movie is getting.

"I’m only going to do what I love doing. If people like it, great ; if they don’t, too bad."

Reviewers on either side have agreed that her performance can be mesmerising and heart-rending.

Von Trier, despite their differences, now says : "She gives an incredible performance and it’s not acted - it’s felt."

And that’s what he wanted all along.

"He used to joke about, with me, how actually he can’t stand acting, that he prefers when things are felt. Which came in handy for me, because that’s all I can do," Bjork says, laughing lightly.

The role was so emotionally exhausting that it took her nine months to recover, trying to live a normal life as a mum and homebody while her son went to school.

"It feels like a spell" - one she hopes will now be broken with the movie’s premiere and the end of her promotional interviews.

"Ah, yes, yes. Please. No more dialogue. No more working with people that I don’t understand. I mean I believe in diplomacy. Kofi Annan (the UN secretary-general) is a great hero of mine - that element of trying to unite very different worlds," she says. "Right now I can do with a bit of hanging out just with my mates."

publié dans Sydney Morning Herald