Interview: Biophilia filmmakers Peter Strickland and Nick Fenton
The men responsible for bringing Bjork's final concert to the big screen talk about working with the superstar
In 2008, Björk embarked upon her eighth album, Biophilia, which turned into a massive multi-disciplinary multimedia project including an otherworldly live show. The final concert of her 70-date world tour took place at Alexandra Palace on 7 September 2013 and was filmed by Peter Strickland and Nick Fenton. The pair discuss their thoughts on bringing the whole experience to the big screen.
How much contact did you have with Björk and what advice did she give you?
PS: In my mind we were clearly there to serve Björk’s vision. Initially in the treatment, I was talking about using quite a lot of 70s footage and I think she was cautious of going down a retro path. She didn’t want to have a romantic view of nature. She wanted something modern and clinical. It was a question of a lot of discussion prior to the concert.
Did you look at any filmed live shows for inspiration?
NF: It’s very difficult to aspire to do what’s already been done before and that inevitably ends in failure. With someone like Björk, my ambition was to do something that’s true to what her work represents.
Björk commissioned people to make instruments for this project: which was your favourite?
PS: The Sharpsichord. Henry Dagg made this incredible thing which they couldn’t transport outside of the UK but it has this incredible sound to it and it is a beautiful piece of machinery. I love those shots where the camera goes deep inside the instrument: they’re anatomical.
What are your thoughts on the Biophilia hypothesis, the idea that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems?
PS: Technology is evolving at such a rapid rate, sometimes you feel nature is declining which is quite shocking. For me, it’s about marvelling at the universe on an infinite and microscopic level and finding these connections. We tried to introduce this by having highly magnified tissue cells and linking them with overhead shots of forests and sand dunes. Visually they almost look identical.
Björk: Biophilia Live is screening at Glasgow Film Theatre, Fri 24–Mon 27 Oct; Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Tue 11 Nov.