Behind the Scenes of Director Alma Har'el's Viral New Video for "Fjögur Piano"
Director Alma Har’el takes NOWNESS on set of her hypnotic video for symphonic rockers Sigur Rós track “Fjögur Piano” in this exclusive behind-the-scenes film. The crew set the stage for Transformers star Shia LaBeouf and dancer Denna Thompson to play out a turbulent relationship, enacting moments of intimacy and violence through a lollipop acid trip and hallucinatory undersea journey, against a backdrop of framed butterflies. “Shia has all the professional skills of someone who’s worked on big-scope movies, but a humility and sensitivity that’s hard to find,” explains Har’el. The short for “Fjögur Piano” is the latest installment in Sigur Rós’ Valtari Mystery Film Experiment, which grants a modest budget and complete creative freedom to a select group of filmmakers to make videos for the band's haunting new album Valtari. Cutting her teeth as a TV presenter in her native Israel before moving to America and shooting music videos for the likes of Beirut and Jack Penate, the LA-based director garnered critical acclaim from the likes of directors Terry Gilliam and Werner Herzog for her award-winning debut feature documentary Bombay Beach, about the eccentric community of a Californian desert ghost town. Here Har’el reveals the origins of her collaboration with Sigur Rós and LaBeouf.
How did Shia LeBeouf become involved in the video?
Shia just found me. He randomly picked up my film Bombay Beach at Amoeba records on Sunset Boulevard and watched it at home. I got back late that night and there was an email that simply said, “Hello my name is Shia LaBeouf and I'm a big fan of your work. Can we open a dialogue about working together in the future?” I just wrote back, “Is this a joke?” But it wasn't, and we went to dinner the day after. We ordered food but never ate it... we had an immediate connection that you have with people that love the same things you love. Both of our fathers suffered many years from hard addictions. Talking about that and how it becomes part of your psyche probably had an impact on me when I wrote the video treatment.
For someone associated with more macho roles, he appears very vulnerable in this.
Yes, I'm always interested in the way we fit into our gender and how abstract all of it is at the end of the day. Especially when relationships get deep and you sense all the human layers.
As a high-profile star was Shia wary of the nudity?
Shia has the ability to tap into every part of himself. He wasn't afraid of anything. If anything I was afraid to ask at first... I didn't know him well enough. He took on the dancing like a hero. He’d never danced before but by the end of the first rehearsal he was already adding his own accents to the dance.
Were you inspired by any relationship, cinematic or otherwise for the video?
I was mostly inspired by relationships I know, from seeing how hard it is to get out of something that is both beautiful and deadening. For me, the butterflies symbolize beautiful, perfect things that die fast.
How does Sigur Rós’ music make you feel?
What I love is the intimate, gentle feeling of being present that it compliments so well, and how it turns into something epic and more complicated. It's very cinematic and lends itself to the imagination. You can just drift away…