Michel Gondry’s video for Björk’s “Human Behavior” showed us the animal’s point of view

By on February 27, 2019

We’re taking another look at Night Flight’s syndication-era “Take Off to Eclectic Ladies” — which originally aired in 1994, and you’ll now find streaming on Night Flight Plus — where we found the Michel Gondry-directed video for Icelandic superstar Björk‘s “Human Behavior.”

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Björk’s song was reportedly inspired by British broadcaster and naturalist David Attenborough.

The song — as well as Gondry’s video — reveals the relationship between humans and animals from the animal’s point of view.

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As Björk (born Björk Guðmundsdóttir in Reykjavík on November 21, 1965) would tell Rolling Stone, in the magazine’s September 1993 issue, “the animals are definitely supposed to win in the end.”

She added: “So why, one might ask, is the conquering bear presented as a man-made toy? I don’t know. I guess I just didn’t think it would be fair to force an animal to act in a video. I mean, that would be an extension of what I’m against. I told [Michel Gondry] ‘I want a bear and textures like handmade wood and leaves and earth, and I want it to seem like animation.’ Then I backed out.”

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We’re told what to expect from the tune in its first few lines of lyrics:

“If you ever get close to a human, and human behavior
You’d better be ready to get confused”

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The track — written by Björk and British record producer/remixer and songwriter Nellee Hooper — was released in June of 1993, a month prior to the release of her first solo album Debut, which launched the Icelandic singer on her spectacular international career after she’d already become quite well known as the lead singer of the Sugarcubes.

Even though she’s said she’d written the melody of the song when she was kid, she’d decided not to release the song with her band because she couldn’t come up with the rest of the music in 1988, saving it for her solo career instead.

The recording also features a “bouncing riff” sampled from “Go Down Dying” by Brazilian musician Antonio Carlos Jobim, “its syncopated beat consigned to a venerable orchestral instrument, the timpani.”

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In an interview conducted in 2011 with some of the readers of the Guardian UK, Björk revealed that that the song was referring her her own childhood,

“… And probably talking about how I felt more comfortable on my own walking outside singing and stuff than hanging out with humans…I experienced harmony with kids, the mountains and the ocean surrounding Reykjavik and animals, I guess, but found grown ups rather chaotic and nonsensical. When I went into sixth form school I chose science, math and physics and thought psychology, anthropology, sociology and history and such was for sissies. A huge majority of Icelanders do the same thing.”

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“Human Behavior” — the first song on the “Isobel song cycle,” a transcendental cycle in Björk’s discography which goes from “Human Behavior” to “Wanderlust” (2007) — peaked at #2 on the dance charts and #36 on the UK Singles Chart.

Read more about Michel Gondry and Björk’s video for “Human Behavior” below.

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Michel Gondry — born in Versailles, France, on May 8, 1963 — attended the Ecole Olivier de Serres art school in Paris.

He also played drums for the rock group Oui Oui, directing their music videos, and it was these early videos caught Björk’s eye.

She invited him to direct the video for her song “Human Behavior,” which provides us with our first introduction to filmmaker Michel Gondry’s work, and he continues to offer up charming, whimsical and askewed points-of-view along with its own demented dream-logic.

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This video was, at the time, probably as close to a visualized Brothers Grimm fairy tale as we were ever likely to see in the world of music videos.

Gondry’s video was additionally visually inspired by Russian animator Yuri Norstein’s classic animated film Hedgehog in the Fog.

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Using rear-screen projection, stop-motion animation, and people dressed up in animal suits — some of them looking like Furries — the “Human Behavior” video was the first of six videos in the collaborative partnership between Björk and Gondry (the others were for “Hyperballad,” “Joga,” “Bachelorette,” “Declare Independence” and “Crystalline”).

Each subsequent video is a terrific example of how two artists can come together to create something completely unique and original in the span of just a few minutes worth of screentime.

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In “Human Behavior,” we see a slow-moving hedgehog who confronts a speeding car while he’s trying to cross a country road, and a giant, lumbering teddy bear tracking a hunter who is tracking the bear, eventually beating him to death.

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We also see Björk inside her cottage in a lush, sometimes surreal forest, and, ultimately, she ends up on the moon, where we see Björk planting a Soviet flag, before the Icelandic singer goes down a bear’s throat, and we then see her singing from inside the bear’s stomach.

We’re to understand that what this means is Björk is the bear, and the bear is Björk.

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The award-winning video received six nominations for the MTV Video Music Awards of 1994, including Best Female Video, Best New Artist in a Video, Breakthrough Video, Best Direction, Best Special Effects and Best Art Direction.

She was also nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Music Video, Short Form.

Night Flight’s “Take Off to Eclectic Ladies” — which also features videos by Kate Bush, Suzanne Vega, Cyndi Lauper, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Juliana Hatfield, Melissa Ferrick, Bonnie Raitt and Natalie Merchant‘s 10,000 Maniacs, as well as a couple of odd little PSA’s by Night Flight fave Laurie Anderson — is streaming on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.