Film Review – Björk: Biophilia Live

Björk is no stranger to film. She most notably starred in Lars Von Trier’s musical Dancer in the Dark but also in Matthew Barney’s Drawing Restraint 9. There have also been numerous concert films throughout her career, not to mention recently teamed up with David Attenborough for the TV documentary When Björk Met Attenborough. The pair collaborate again as the eminent naturalist provides the introduction to Björk: Biophilia Live.

Björk: Biophilia Live is a concert film of the last gig of the Icelander’s two year Biophilia tour. It was originally meant to be made in 3D by Michel Gondry, but commitments (and probably costs) got in the way. Berberian Sound Studio’s Peter Strickland and Nick Fenton took over at the helm, and instead worked in concert with the singer to augment the live show “with the imagery evoked by Björk’s lyrics, harmonies and textures. Volcanic eruptions, cellular life, DNA, viruses, solar activity, crystal formation, notational scores and lunar cycles were all incorporated to hint, emphasise, wonder at and often chart the highs, lows and sorrows of Björk’s music and performance.”

Nature, music and technology are melded together is the sound of Biophilia. For the concert filmed at Alexander Palace Björk is joined on stage by a percussionist, a tech guy, a menagerie of specially designed instruments and an Icelandic choir. These instruments were especially designed by the singer for the recording and performance of the album. These are wonderful inventions – Gravity Pendulum Harp, Sharpsicord, MIDI controlled pipe organ, Gameleste and musical Tesla coil. I’m a bit of a geek about musical instruments so I could have just watched these for the entire film.

The fabulous live show not only looks amazing but sounds it too. There are very few artists like Björk who can capture and captivate such a large live audience through her charisma and stage presence alone. The images, going out on huge screens above the stage during the concert, are periodically merged in with the performance. The weakest point is when they take centre stage. The images themselves are not strong enough as a whole to command the attention, and you feel like you’re missing out on the live action. Indeed, the most powerful and beautiful moment is when Bjork is on stage to perform Solstice just supported by the Gravity Pendulum Harp.

The concert footage is superbly filmed, using great angles and perspectives to augment inclusiveness of the venue. Resplendent in cobalt blue make-up and a colourful afro wig, Björk is a truly enchanting performer. I’ve seen very few concert films which can hold a torch to Biophilia Live.

Björk: Biophilia Live is out in cinemas ofrom today and Blu-ray/DVD on November 3rd

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