Björk Played A Key Role In Crafting Her Character For The Northman

We never thought we would ever see Björk in a film ever again. While her performance in Lars von Trier's 2000 musical "Dancer in the Dark" is spellbinding, her experience on the film was anything but that. Von Trier has rarely received the greatest word of mouth in how he treats the people he works with, and back in a 2017 Facebook post, Björk accused him (not by name but by nationality) of sexually harassing her during the making of that movie. After winning the Best Actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival, she said the movie would be her "first and last" (though it was really her second film, after 1990's "The Juniper Tree"). After all, she is a musician first and foremost, and Lars Von Trier, nor any other film director for that matter, was not going to sully that.

Twenty-two years later, she finally changed her mind to appear in Robert Eggers' tremendous Viking epic "The Northman." It is a brief but crucial role in which she plays a seeress illuminating Alexander Skarsgård's Amleth on his fate. Björk is not just going to be some hired gun though. Not in the slightest. Even though she has one scene in the movie, she will dig into the singular creative brain of hers to help make this small part something memorable.

'She is either all-in or not'

Firstly, how does one get Björk out of acting retirement? For Robert Eggers, it was developing a relationship of trust, working with individuals both he and Björk knew were quality people. In an interview with IndieWire, Eggers said:

"One is never in the position of convincing Björk. She is either all-in or not in at all. It helped that she and Sjón have such a long relationship, as they've known each other since they were teenagers. Our composer Robin Carolan has a friendship with Björk and introduced me and my wife to her and then we developed a relationship."

Having a close-knit circle of compatriots always makes for a better environment for everyone, no matter what the job is. Björk even brought in her daughter Doa to be in the film as well. Eggers refers to it as "a familial atmosphere."

As for crafting the seeress, that kindred spirit nature found its way in their collaboration on the look of the character. Eggers came in with the idea of her wearing a cowrie shell headdress, something they discovered women in that time in what would now be Ukraine would wear. If you have seen any film by Robert Eggers, you know he buries himself in research of the period, be it design, customs, language, or anything. It's what gives his films a sense of grimy reality period pictures rarely ever embody.

On the Björk side of things, Eggers said, "She contributed to the idea that she would have a third eye and her real eyes would be covered." In order to marry their two visual conceptions, they designed the headdress to where the cowrie shells would hang down and cover her eyes. Because this character appears so briefly, and almost only from one camera angle, the visuals of Björk's seeress needs to bury itself in your mind immediately. There is absolutely no luxuriating in spending time with her. You can't develop her interiority. The external is vital, and if you have ever seen a Björk performance or music video, you know how important her visual representations are to her.

Thankfully, Björk and Eggers' minds perfectly connected here, and the seeress remains lodged in my brain, despite the short amount of screen time. Now, let's hope Eggers tries next time to get her to be more than just a cameo. I want to see how their minds meld when they have a massive canvas on which to create a character.