Björk: Biophilia Live (London Film Festival 2014) Review
All is full of Björk. It’s oh so Björk. Army of Björk. Venus as a Björk. If you’re not a fan of Björk, then Björk: Biophilia Live is not for you. (It’s an obvious statement, but there were several walkouts during the press screening.) When Biophilia came out as an album in 2011, Björk promised that it was a multimedia project – iPad apps, a live tour, visual documentation. With the help of directors Nick Fenton and Peter Strickland, Björk: Biophilia Live is a recorded gig brought to cinemas with thoughtfully juxtaposed visuals and thematic cohesion.A slightly patronising introduction from David Attenborough lays out Björk’s mission statement. The Icelandic songstress wants to correct how mankind and science are destroying nature, when actually the combination can produce beautiful music – the kind of orchestral overtures that won’t melt polar caps. “Listen, learn and create,” instructs Attenborough in his dulcet tones, while also demonstrating Björk’s underrated sense of humour. Unlike the lyrics, the stage show is supposed to be fun, especially when the backing singers are positively beaming when singing along to “Possibly Maybe”.Biophilia Live is a little bit of a missed opportunity in that it doesn't delve behind the scenes, discuss the instrumentation, or detail how the tour expanded. Björk, however, is happy to let the songs – all heavily skewed towards a theme of science – speak (and sing) for themselves. The stage layout reflects the album’s unusual frequencies; a Tesla coil fizzles in the centre, multiple iPads are operated like pianos, and some guy plays what looks like three tortoise shells as if he’s Beethoven. When she sings of “craving mir-ah-cles”, the whole room is fully onboard.Fenton and Strickland apply hypnotic images of glow-in-the-dark microbiology and other overlays that play well for the cinema experience. There are even traces of a dream sequence from Strickland’s butterfly-centric The Duke of Burgundy (one of the festival’s highlights). The directors also know not to distract too much from the Björk experience – the singer is the untouchable reason for the film’s existence, and serves as an inspirational supported of weirdness. “This one’s for the Faroe Islands and Greenland,” she exclaims for one song. She beckons the crowd to feel “free to dance” to what turns out to be an un-danceable song – unless you invent one yourself. With the ambition and theme taken into consideration, this is “Possibly Maybe” her Tree-melo of Life.’Björk: Biophilia Live’ is playing London Film Festival 2014 as part of the Sonic Gala. Ticket information can be found here.