Björk goes against every convention associated with artists that operate within the mainstream. However, against the odds, she managed to elbow her way to the very top. If you were to use two words to define the Icelandic artist, ‘truly surreal’ would be an appropriate choice, and that’s precisely how she described one film before citing it as a source of inspiration.
Perhaps, the reason that Björk so frequently taps into the surreal and unearthly part of the human brain is the place where she finds solace. After all, her life has been anything but typical. First off, fame arrived with her debut album when she was only 12-years-old, and, from there, a childhood prodigy was born. In an obscure turn of events four years later, she inaugurated herself into the Icelandic punk scene with her first band, Tappi Tíkarrass.
Following the split of that outfit, Björk developed her sound and shifted into avant-garde territory with The Sugarcubes. They released three records during their time together and enjoyed a smattering of international success, a previously unheard-of feat for Icelandic bands. Their journey took the group across the globe, and, at the height of their fame, they even performed on Saturday Night Live.
When Tappi Tíkarrass decided to call it a day in late 1992, Björk moved to London and established herself as the world’s most unlikely pop star. Intriguingly, she’s always been happy to reel off sources of inspiration, whether it’s a book, Joni Mitchell, or a film, if it’s got her mind racing, then Björk will discuss it.
Speaking with The Guardian in 2012, Björk opened up her mind and gave an array of recommendations that like-minded souls would enjoy. In the piece, the Icelandic singer discussed her surprise love of Death Grips and named a film that was even ‘surreal’ by her otherworldly standards. If you thought that was strange, wait until you hear about her love for the 1973 Polish piece of surrealist cinema, The Hourglass Sanatorium.
“It was called The Sandglass in English,” she explained. “It’s based on a novel by Bruno Schulz. I feel the word ‘surreal’ has been totally overused as a fancy word for weird, but this film is truly surreal for me, where you enter the dream, and the seamless connection between it and the emotional life … I have rarely seen this documented so well in a film. It is a state of mind. I recognise the sense of wonder.”
Polish authorities deemed the film to be too controversial, and they even attempted to forbid its cinematic release because it celebrated Jewish culture. The anti-Semitic regime went as far as confiscating it, but thankfully, it was smuggled into Cannes and made its way into existence, and the place where it won the coveted Jury’s Prize.
It’s an obscure piece of cinema to seek inspiration from, but would you honestly expect anything left from such a connoisseur of left-field culture like Björk? See the trailer below.