Sjón is aware of cats. He lives in a cat neighbourhood in Reykjavík, Iceland. Each space has a lawn, a tree. On a daily basis he should say hi to the entire cats. On a daily basis he is going to his favorite cafe to learn. On the cafe, in the event that they ask it of him, he’ll pat the cats. He has his personal cat. A cat who thinks himself a large quantity, in that society of cats. Sjón’s cat is continuously combating to stay Sjón’s lawn freed from the opposite cats. Sjón likes the opposite cats. He wouldn’t thoughts if the ones different cats got here to his lawn. He says, in his neighbourhood, you need to admire and make peace with the cats.
Sjón has a significant face, framed by means of critical black frames, however I spend our interview giggling. I snigger concerning the cats. The best way he speaks about issues, about his paintings, it’s this pleasant mixture of profundity and absurdity. As a youngster, self-publishing his first guide of poetry – 100 copies, offered at the bus trip house to the suburbs of Reykjavík – he known with the power of the punk motion – selfmade. He preferred punk’s social assault however no longer its nihilism. He additionally embraced the power of the Surrealists – that’s his phrase for it – their power and their playful international view. It’s nonetheless with him nowadays.
It’s the international view of the rebellion, the everlasting rebellion; it’s the realization within the absolute energy of the poetic creativeness and that the cruelty of politics must be countered with poetry. Each baby-kisser must put up a guide of poetry sooner than they’re allowed in place of business, he says, with each absolute seriousness and a grin on the nook of his mouth. He speaks slowly, discovering the precise phrases; I will nearly listen the interpretation. What emerges from the ones lips, ultimately, is an ideal eloquence. It’s very fascinating.
Within the cafe, he loves to learn, to investigate. He reads for an hour every day. He does no longer write in Reykjavík, he simply loves to learn, with the noise of the cafe within the background; he says it’s stress-free. When he writes, he is going to an previous fisherman’s space at the south coast of Iceland. Within the iciness this space smells of snow. In the summertime it smells of inexperienced. It is extremely small. It has a radio, no tv. He does no longer have a smartphone. There’s no web there. That is the place he does his writing, novel writing, for 16 hours an afternoon. Whitewood panelling, minimalistic, very tiny, he says. It will get visited by means of the occasional box mouse. That’s the corporate he helps to keep there. And ravens, flocks of ravens within the iciness. They arrive in from the mountains and scavenge within the the city. The seashore is a great position for no less than getting some seaweed into your abdomen. When issues are laborious for the ravens he feeds them, to stay himself of their favour. That’s necessary, he says, to feed the ravens. When he is going house to Reykjavík once more, he does no longer write for lengthy stretches of time, simply reads within the cafe, and pats the cats.
Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson, referred to as Sjón, is many stuff: poet, novelist, screenwriter, lyricist. He co-wrote your favorite Björk songs, undoubtedly mine: “Isobel”, from Put up (1995), “Bachelorette” and “Jóga” from Homogenic (1997). He was once nominated for a “Best possible tune, authentic track” Oscar for his collaborative paintings on Lars von Trier’s Dancer within the Darkish (2000).
The teenager in me is more than happy to talk with Sjón. I will listen Björk’s large voice in my head: My identify Issoooobbbeeellll. Björk requested for his lend a hand scripting this epic track. He tells the tale of ways they wrote “Isobel” in combination, the primary track he wrote. In Björk’s kitchen: the moth. There was once a moth on Björk’s lapel and it was once there all day. This moth travelled along with her whilst she did her errands, to the file retailer and again house once more. The moth at the lapel, it was once implausible, in fact it had to enter the track. It was once there for a explanation why. It had imbued the kitchen with its silent presence. Björk performed him the track, and it was once this superb track, the demo of “Isobel” – it already was once very particular, the rhythm and construction and the whole thing, and the sound international was once taking form. Moth delivers her message, unexplained in your collar, crawling in silence, a easy excuse. And that could be a tale about “Isobel”, says Sjón. Sjón and Björk, he tells me, they got here into being as ingenious folks in combination within the ’80s.
One thing concerning the pandemic has supposed he has determined that he’ll write handiest screenplays and paintings with filmmakers for the following couple of years. That may be a exchange. Writing screenplays isn’t like writing novels. One thing concerning the scattered nature of writing them felt extra imaginable right through the pandemic, he says. It’s a collective revel in. All through the pandemic, writing novels and poetry was once very laborious. With screenplays there’s the collaboration. It isn’t him by myself in his fisherman’s space, with handiest the ravens.
These days, he’s in Zürich. It’s autumn, and the sunshine in the back of him has that golden notice. It’s proper on the exchange of the seasons. Right here in Melbourne the nectarine bushes are naked of leaves however vivid with crimson blossom. He’s writing a screenplay. An adaptation of Hamlet, a Danish manufacturing. He’s removed Shakespeare, there’s no hint of him. Or perhaps simply just a hint. The director, Ali Abbasi, had a temporary to regard this well-known play as liberally as Shakespeare handled the unique Nordic Amleth tale from Denmark. Sjón says, in some way, we’re taking it again.
In 2020 he completed co-writing The Northman with director Robert Eggers. A Viking revenge saga, star-studded: Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke and Björk. Manufacturing was once halted in early 2020, but it surely’s because of be launched subsequent 12 months. In Eggers he says he’s discovered what he describes as an inventive soul brother. Creatively he can paintings with Eggers, identical to he can paintings with Björk. In truth, she offered them at a dinner at her space.
I ask Sjón about Lamb, the quiet, affecting movie he co-wrote with director Valdimar Jóhannsson. The tale happens inside a rural Icelandic panorama. Lamb isn’t fairly a horror movie, regardless that it’s from time to time horrific. It’s no Reykjavik Whale Gazing Bloodbath (2009) – Sjón’s first movie and a movie he calls crude however precisely the movie he sought after to make, a movie within the custom of The Texas Chainsaw Bloodbath (1974). Lamb isn’t any splatter gore horror movie, he says.
I received’t inform you an excessive amount of about it, I received’t wreck it. Even telling you the basis would possibly wreck a few of it. So, I’ll simply say there’s a childless farming couple and on Christmas Eve there’s a visitation and, after, a peculiar beginning.
Sjón tells me that Christmas Eve is a time to be careful. In Iceland, issues occur on Christmas Eve, or Midsummer’s Eve or Midwinter’s Eve, whilst the people are grew to become away, celebrating. After gazing the movie I’ve a bloodcurdling nightmare about lambs, however this can be a very gorgeous movie. It’s closely influenced by means of Armenian director Harutyun Khachatryan, whose movies border on documentaries. Lengthy stretches of Khachatryan’s movies are simply folks operating. Sjón says that they determined to consider within the target market being curious about being with the characters of their lives. He says, if you have an interest within the lives of the folk, you simply watch the folk, since you are folks too.
Those persons are deep in a lovely panorama, it’s very shifting. Sjón says there’s such a lot poetry within the panorama, within the silences, within the pacing of it. With the environment, this superb panorama that become the valley the place their farm is, we realised that there’s not anything you’ll be able to do to strip it of its lyrical energy. It’s there. That is the panorama.
He says, for Icelanders there’s at all times the risk that for artists, writers, musicians from our nation – and lots of international locations which are outdoor the cultural centre – there’s at all times the temptation, or threat, of giving in to the unique concepts about your nation. Other people have unique concepts about your nation. Other people have had unique concepts about Iceland because the 18th century, you realize, and it by no means is going away. It doesn’t subject how fashionable we predict now we have transform, there are at all times folks taking a look from the outdoor seeing the unique nature of it, or projecting their concepts about this some distance away nation onto us. There’s at all times the temptation of giving into it and enjoying at the side of it. There also are at all times moments whilst you realise there’s not anything that you’ll be able to do about it. Should you position a tale within the geographical region, this would be the geographical region. Let’s simply embody that it’s lyrical and sumptuous and paintings with it.
Lamb has a people tale sensibility in it. It’s within the seriousness, says Sjón, in accepting that this factor is occurring at the farm and no longer wondering it. He says, you’ve gotten such a lot of Eu people tales that start with an odd couple, dwelling someplace in completely on a regular basis revel in, you by no means query that. Those are salt-of-the-earth standard folks simply going about their trade, after which a creature comes strolling out of the wall or a visitor comes and asks to stick for the evening and issues occur – that is the truth of the folks tale.
That is territory Sjón is accustomed to. In his novel The Blue Fox (2003) he writes from within the society, the place the folks tale is actual. From the Mouth of the Whale (2008) is identical, he says, set within the seventeenth century the place you’ve gotten a herbal scientist filled with concepts, which, to the recent thoughts, to our thoughts, are simply delusion. Sjón says that for this personality, unicorns, monsters in lakes and within the box are completely actual and he’s simply coping with it as a scientist.
Sjón has at all times beloved people tales. As a child he was once obsessed. His favourites, he tells me, had been the ugly ones. He says, we don’t have right kind ghosts in Iceland. Now we have the undead, the useless that go back to hang-out the dwelling; they achieve this of their rotten our bodies, they’re extra like zombies, you realize. One tale I’ve at all times preferred is ready a farmer who’s going between farms, within the absolute darkish, clearly, in the midst of the evening, in the midst of iciness and anyone has died out within the desolate tract previous that iciness and has returned to annoy travellers. He’s going between the farms, and this undead comes strolling as much as him out of the evening and he simply in fact freezes with concern after which the undead takes to the air his hat and places it beneath his arm, and the hat speaks and says, “The darkness is at all times amusing, isn’t it?” The man simply runs away. Now we have excellent tales like that.
For Sjón as a child, those tales had been actual. He was once satisfied they had been true.
I ask Sjón concerning the movie rights to his novels, as I believed it herbal that if he’s writing movies, he would possibly write the movie of his personal books. However no, he hasn’t ever offered the rights to a guide. The books are his issues, he says. He’s in no hurry to look them at the display. In truth, he has just one rule for novel writing: write it in some way that makes it unfilmable. He says, if a filmmaker presentations passion in my guide, then I feel, Hmmm perhaps I didn’t organize to make it utterly unfilmable. I must take a look at tougher subsequent time.
This text was once first revealed within the print version of The Saturday Paper on
Oct 23, 2021 as “Everlasting rebellion”.
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