You were classically trained?
I was–but I don’t know if I’d quite call it that. I went through a pretty standard music education and literacy because I wanted to study composition originally. I wanted to study properly and understand how to write because I’d always been writing as a child and as a teenager. I’ve never really been able to do the classical side of it.
What made you decide that you wanted to do your own project?
Well, I had a few commissions as a composer, and I pretty much got quite tired of the formality of the concert hall life and being a young female–in English classical music there are not that many women. I found the whole thing a little bit off-putting, and decided I wanted to do something a bit more exciting. The performances that I went to just weren’t really giving me much. We did a few improvised shows and it was quite jazzy and experimental. After that I started to think about more ideas, about what I wanted artistically as well as musically; I just wanted to do my own thing. I wanted to make a project that had quite a strong visual side as well as a musical side, in terms of making performances more enjoyable for me, and for audiences, but also just to really get a sense of performing, which is something I have been out of touch with for a long time, because when you’re composing you don’t end up performing at all. That’s something I missed quite a lot.
How important is the visual element to who you are as an artist, as well as your look?
I’d say it’s as important as the music, really, although I think music is perhaps more direct, and harder to get a sense of or to pin down. Sometimes imagery can be a little bit limiting–people easily make associations with things they’ve seen or trends. When I started, before Gazelle Twin was a thing, I did performances a bit with some similar music. I did it all without any visual style, dressed as myself, had a band with a few guys, it was all very normal. I found that quite problematic because it’s music–for me it has a certain intensity that really demands a bit more from live performance. I felt a performance needed so much more than just a group of people with synthesizers. It fits having a little bit more theatricality to it. Also, I don’t like having to do banter onstage. A lot of people are very good at it, but I’m not, I’m incredibly shy. I tend to be self-deprecating and a bit apologetic. If I talk it’s between songs, it completely destroys the atmosphere. So I found I needed something to sort of almost make some sort of an excuse to not speak and not to be seen as myself and not to really think about the fashion side. It’s very hard to perform without having a fashion sense, and I like fashion, but I didn’t want that choice to be limiting for me, I wanted to remove the fashion side of it altogether, so capturing the visual side sort of helps me to extend that the feeling of the music and the mood of the music outward. It’s really lucky that I’m able to do it without too big a budget.
What part does the mystery and the cryptic nature of your performances and music have in who you are as an artist?
I don’t think of myself as a big ‘artist’. I think I like to think about how artists work, and when things end up a certain way it is just a result of a residual mindset, it doesn’t come completely out of the blue. I don’t really think about it as I’m doing it, it just sort of happens. Your music has the potential to reveal a lot about yourself and reveal your physical appearance, your emotional appearance, your emotional background, and in a sense I’m still doing that, but I’m fitting it through a different voice, a different, more creative angle–so in a sense I’m trying to remove myself from who I really am. At the same time I’m guarding myself from not only the world, but maybe it’s all a little too much, and sometimes when you don’t give it away it can say something else about you. It can offer people a different kind of experience. It’s partly to do with trends and expectations and television, but sometimes just being a bit kind of, a bit sort of weird about it as well because that’s what I’m kind of drawn to. I’m always drawn to the darker things and darker imagery.
Do you think it’s more important what you reveal than what you don’t reveal or vice versa?
I don’t know. I mean, people see different things and it’s a strange thing for me to have written some of these songs because I still don’t really know. I’m still discovering what a lot of the songs are about really and a lot of the markings are personal and they also have meaning. I really don’t know what people see, I think it’s always going to be different how people see it, so it’s hard to say.
People say The Entire City is about a falling civilization or a dystopian society. Is that what you were going for–something you wanted to link into our society today?
It started a bit early with the title. Before I could really finish the album the title was there. I was pretty fascinated with civilization, and a lot of it was because I read a lot of catastrophic projections of the future. The setting for the album is not necessarily the apocalypse, but the city is in the future where nature has taken over or where humans have had to adjust biologically or socially. I’m really interested in that and the reason that literature about that subject exists is because we are fascinated with our own demise. A lot of the songs are an exploration of that. I hope there’s nothing there that is less specific to looking beyond human life and looking into nature.
The cover of your album looks as though it could be an ancient civilization, but at the same time it looks like what we could imagine as the end of days, nature finally conquering us.
I hope it does. I know it sounds awful, but I hope it does. I think that piece of work that I’ve chosen for the album is with an interesting piece of work by an artist in the UK, and she’s done a whole series of these collages. It’s all photography, it’s like an incredibly huge collage. I think it was Cuba, she took a photo of the city, all bits of Cuba like the buildings there and basically collaged it–it’s an amazing effect. And one of the books I was reading at the time I was writing the album was J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World. It’s about a point in the future where the climate of the earth has changed so much that prehistoric reptile life returned–this American city was flooded and there are all these tropical giant plants and things. When I first saw these collages, it was like a visualization of his novel.
Are you interested in acts of ritual?
Well, I think I’ve always been interested in religion for the ritualistic purpose really. I think in all religions there is something that, like a habitual kind of repetitive motion that I think for some reason it’s always drawn me in. I’m an Atheist, I became an Atheist eventually, but I grew up being sort of a Christian and found really that all I was drawn to was the visual of the music and other rituals. As I’ve gotten older I’ve just been learning about other cultures and I’ve always been fascinated reading about tribes and practices that are just straying from our own. I was lucky to live in Europe while there is still actually quite a lot of ritualistic things occurring whether it’s in Catholicism or Christianity or Paganism. The start of “Men Like Gods” was derived from the something I encountered while in Siberia: An ancient Pagan ritual that happens a few times a year with the roasting of many animals and people singing a lot of ballads. It’s just all there in this one tiny little place, it’s very weird.
In a series of videos, in which Chloë Sevigny promotes her resort collection for Opening Ceremony, we are granted access to the fashion plate’s dizzying archives. Ensconced in her retro East Village home exists a closet so cavernous and chock-filled with treasure, it’s like watching an episode of Hoarders: Haute Couture. In an effort to save you some time, we’ve highlighted the top-10 tidbits gleaned from watching parts one and two:
1. She Doesn’t eBay. A bonafide vintage lover, the ’90s aficionado confesses her incompetence online. “I don’t eBay or do anything online,” she says. “I’m really bad with the computer.”
2. She Loves Halloween. In remembrance of her late father, who also loved the holiday, Sevigny has an affinity for things that go bump in the night.
3. She’s Lazy. She has a custom-made, turquoise Proenza Schouler turtleneck dress. She wore it to last year’s Met Ball and ripped holes in the armpits. She has yet to get it fixed, even though the designers have offered to mend it for her. (This makes me angry. Hence factoid #3.)
4. She Considers a Backless Leather Jumper “Super Comfy.” A direct quote: “This is a little jumpsuit, which matches denim with leather, it’s backless, super sexy, super comfy. It’s like a bib here, keeps you really hidden—yep, that’s probably my favorite piece.”
5. She Gets What She Wants… Be it vintage, swallow-adorned flares or an embroidered Elvis denim jacket, straight off the back of actor Linda Manz.
6. She Can’t Sew. The designer exhibits a pair of bubblegum-pink bunny ears from the 1997 film Gummo, for which she created the costumes. “They’re really poorly constructed,” she admits. “I didn’t really know how to do it.”
7. She Hates L.A. And said hatred resulted in a love affair with S&M regalia. Ipso, facto.
8. Pink Is Her Favorite Color. This isn’t something I inferred.
9. She Walked in a Miu Miu Show. And has a killer picture of her and Kate Moss backstage at the show, which she dubs “hilarious,” a blatant euphemism for “awesome.”
10. She Harbored a Crush on Jason Lee. Waaay before his name was Earl.
Since the release of her 2004 debut album, The Milk-Eyed Mender, 29-year-old singer-songwriter Joanna Newsom has transported listeners to a whimsical world with her feathery voice and epic, flowery lyrics. In an exclusive collaboration with BULLETT, the unabashed romantic conceptualized and styled a shoot inspired by the 1971 film, The Hired Hand.
Michael C Hall arrives to the set of his photo shoot—a sprawling Glendale estate—in army-green attire, the earthy ensemble that his longtime character, beloved serial killer Dexter Morgan, sports as camouflage to hide his alienation and blend into society. In Los Angeles, where Hall’s face seems to occupy every billboard, his nondescript apparel masks the celebrity—seems like he learned a thing or two from channeling Dexter, the enigmatic antihero he plays to such great effect on the hit Showtime series, Dexter.
The 40-year-old actor began his career on the stage. Equipped with the necessary chops—he can sing, dance, and act—Hall appeared in numerous theater productions before booking a part in the revival of Cabaret, his first Broadway role. Cabaret’s director, Oscar winner Sam Mendes, recommended Hall to producer Alan Ball for the part of David Fisher, a closeted funeral home operator in the drama series, Six Feet Under (True Blood creator Ball’s firstborn with HBO). A year after the show wrapped its fifth and final season, Hall landed the lead role on Dexter, which is currently in its sixth season.
A Miami-based blood splatter analyst, his occupation allows Dexter to access confidential information as well as solve cases—for his own vigilante agenda—which he then uses to kill the area’s most notorious killers. A childhood trauma left him not only with an insatiable appetite for violence, but also with an acute sense of alienation, which is often obscured by his always-placid disposition. As he puts it, if he could love anyone, it would be his sister, Deb, played by Hall’s real-life ex-wife Jennifer Carpenter (the pair filed for divorce in December 2010), the only non-murderous human to whom he can kind of relate.
The hypocrisy of Dexter’s actions—it’s okay to kill, so long as the person you’re offing is morally bankrupt—isn’t enough to keep the show’s zealous fans from rooting for him as he avenges the bad guys, always making sure he has proof for his (and for our) peace of mind. We like to believe that he cleans the streets while turning a blind eye to his peculiar rituals, and we look the other way as pleasure flashes across his face at the sight of his kind. We grant him immunity as if he were his own one-man secret society, for he allows us, in exchange, to indulge vicariously in our own suppressed appetites for justice without consequence.
Before being adapted for television, Dexter was a series of crime novels written by Mormon apologist Jeff Lindsay. The author has admitted publicly that he was, at first, skeptical about having Hall portray his prized antagonist, as he associated him too much with his previous role, “the gay brother from Six Feet Under.” Hall had fallen victim to the curse of the convincing actor, but what Lindsay failed to realize was that just because Hall excelled in one extreme didn’t mean he couldn’t take on another just as gracefully. The writer was later quoted saying, “I didn’t know there were actors that good, and I didn’t know Michael was one of them.” Thanks to Hall’s Golden Globe–winning performance, Dexter reached an average of five million weekly viewers last season, earning the title of Showtime’s most-watched original series.
In person, Hall appears quite handsome and charming when his infamous gaze, the “blue-steel” of sinister, is safely tucked away. He seems reluctant as he surveys the Jim Jones–inspired ranch where we’ve scheduled his photo shoot, scanning a clumsily built shack, a rickety trampoline, and rusty cages overgrown with ivy. He’s obviously worried that he’ll forever be associated with all things creepy, a concern that worsens when he meets the models we’ve hired: young women who’ll play the child-brides to his cult leader. But as he’s always done throughout his varied career, Hall welcomes the challenge of entering the world of a new character.
The photographer motions the model to put her hand on Hall’s thigh. He shuffles uncomfortably as their bodies entangle into one another on the dusty matress. His often-masked masculinity becomes overwhelming in a white tank top. His piercing eyes transition effortlessly between darkly intense and amicably placid as the shutter clicks. From the looks being thrown his way by his nervously giggling “cult girls,” it becomes obvious Hall could play the role of a heartthrob in his sleep.
The next morning, Hall meets me for breakfast at Café 101, a ‘30s-themed Hollywood diner on Franklin Avenue. His mask this time is a baseball hat, pulled all the way down so that it covers the top-half of his face. Not long after his oatmeal arrives topped with a sad, brown banana, I begin to probe him for secrets, using the theme of this issue as an excuse. “I have a childhood secret,” he offers, smiling.
Back in the second grade, he and his friends hung out by a creek near their homes in Northern Virginia, until a construction crew threatened to replace their sanctuary with an apartment complex. “We took it upon ourselves to drive them out and get them to stop building the complex,” he says. “We did all kinds of things to their equipment when they weren’t there. The tamer version of what we did involved spreading a concoction of peanut butter and jelly all over their truck’s console, steering wheel, and shifting gears. When we got particularly adventurous, we’d pee all over the tractor seats, and, you know, it got progressively worse over the course of a few weeks.” While describing the exhilaration he felt from hiding his youthful rebellion from his parents, he looks every bit the part of Dexter—albeit a milder version.
Hall’s mainstream success is being the lovechild of HBO and Showtime, who aren’t bad parents to have in this industry. The actor has marked his territory in contemporary television by starring in two of the most reputable networks’ highest regarded series. By abandoning traditional television’s repetitive formulas and refusing to give into predictability, Six Feet Under was among the first of its kind: a cinema-quality drama that didn’t have to end in 90 minutes. Centered on a dysfunctional family running a funeral home, Six Feet Under examined death from the perspective of characters who were born into its casualty. The series concluded in 2005 after five years on the air, leaving behind a loyal following and well-deserved critical acclaim for Hall.
Fittingly, Six Feet Under ended its run with an episode that revealed the way each of the show’s characters would eventually die. Of his exit from the show, Hall says, “I had a conversation with Lauren Ambrose [who played David’s sister, Claire Fisher, in the series] the day after the finale aired. We were both like, ‘This is probably it, right?’ The last thing I thought I’d do was another television show. I certainly thought that I’ve been spoiled beyond the ability to appreciate any other experience in TV, given how sublime Six Feet Under was.”
It didn’t take long, however, for Hall to sign a contract with his “dark passenger.” About landing the part of Dexter only a year later, he says, “I felt so lucky. I felt like I had shit on both of my shoes.” His tone tells me that this is meant to be a pleasant thing. “It’s not supposed to happen this way.” Although Hall’s two most celebrated roles couldn’t be more different on paper (one cleans up the mess the other makes), they’re both deeply rooted in secrecy. As Dexter Morgan, his secret threatens to send him to death row, but as David Fisher, his secret—his homosexuality—is less destructive, although no less closely guarded for it. Whether by design or coincidence, Hall has become the poster boy for mortality, which can’t help but affect his personal life. Does he see a therapist? Hall nods to confirm. “It’s probably affected my psyche in ways that I can’t really appreciate or articulate, but I haven’t completely lost my mind or anything,” he says. “I still understand that it’s all make-believe.”
With Dexter’s new season comes a much-needed antidote to the monotony of Sunday nights, this time by tapping into some spiritual territory with its biblically charged villains and Dexter’s newfound curiosity about his divine purpose. Never before has America had a sweetheart that was an antagonist of such intensity. I turn to Hall for his secrets of making the self-rationalized character so relatable. Chalk it up to modesty, but he says it’s the darkness within us all—and not his superb acting—that’s responsible for Dexter’s popularity. “I can definitely relate to the simultaneous burden and exhilaration of behaving in some taboo way,” he says. “I think we all have a bag of shadows that we drag around with us. Maybe not as formidable as Dexter’s, but I think that’s a part of what we relate to. I can relate to a sense of compartmentalization, a sense of compulsion—I mean, I’m compelled to do things, but thankfully, it’s not killing and chopping people up.”
Hall admits that besides their mutual compulsion to misbehave, he shares with Dexter a search for authenticity, as well as an appreciation for anonymity. “He has a sense of lacking authenticity or faking of all human interaction. I mean I strive for authenticity in a way that he does. I know what it is to feel that I’m wearing a mask to suit whatever situation I’m in, I think we all do that.”
The increasing number of morally wayward characters stealing screen time from traditionally loveable protagonists—Breaking Bad’s Walter White, Weeds’ Nancy Botwin, The Sopranos’ Tony Soprano, Boardwalk Empire’s Nucky Thompson, Californication’s Hank Moody, to name a few—suggests that we, as a nation, are fascinated by—and perhaps envious of—those who embrace their darkness, disregard authority, and abandon all principles except that of nature: survival of the fittest. There is a visible shift of empathy from the hero to the villain, making the anti-hero the new hero. “I think we live in a time where a lot of people feel an increasing sense that they have no control over their world,” Hall says. “So there’s a vicarious thrill to spending time with a character, who in his own way, and in his own little corner of the world, has taken some form of control.”
Unlike Dexter, Hall is effortlessly “connected” to the world and those who surround him. For example, the man can carry a tune—and he’s not ashamed to let people know. “I sing,” he says. “But that’s no secret.” He has an authoritative voice that resembles a historian. (He is fittingly narrating a series on the History Channel about the Vietnam War) The thick quality of his tone must be what allows him to portray such a believable master manipulator. Even when he jokes, his voice carries such a tone of assurance that it makes you question his deadpan sarcasm. “Why did you close your little book?” he says. “Are you done with me?” with a steady stare. He is very funny, but seriously.
Even in 2009, when Hall was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma—something he shared with the world at the Golden Globe Awards when he accepted his trophy wearing a beanie to cover his hair loss—he was able to break the ice. “It is nice to have a justifiable excuse for accessorizing,” he announced, immediately cutting the otherwise palpable tension. Fortunately his illness went into remission soon after and he is now fully recovered. “I’m more comfortable with a society that values life, but also doesn’t deny the existence, the inevitability of death,” he says.
Hall has since been lending his name to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, an organization that raises money for research to find a cure, and to support fellow survivors battling the disease. His face is currently plastered across billboards in Hollywood to raise awareness about the foundation’s Light the Night Walk, an annual event that takes place around the world.
Then there are, of course, the other billboards, the ones for Dexter, in which Hall is flanked on either side by blood-splatter wings. It suggests he now serves a higher purpose than just getting off on human-stained plastic wrap. But what does it all mean? Will Dexter begin to see what we’ve seen all along: That he is the embodiment of divine intervention. “I want to believe in divine intervention,” Hall says before leaving the restaurant. “It’s hard to definitively say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to questions like that, but there are facts of my own story or other peoples’ story that seem to have been guided by a knowing beyond their individual mind.”
Emily Browning arrives at Flat White, a cluttered, clattering cafe in the heart of Soho, and a popular hangout for London’s growing Australian population. But despite the presence of so many of her countrymen, barely anyone throws the 22-year-old Melbourne native a second glance. If someone does look her way, it’s not because they’ve recognized the face of an actor but because, even in the shadowy back corner of this crowded coffeehouse, Browning is a striking presence: small in stature but commandingly beautiful, wide-eyed, and supremely confident.
A few years ago, Browning’s life was simple—or at least simpler. Though she’d been appearing on Australian television since the age of 10, and was thrust into the public eye for her turn as the plucky Violet Baudelaire in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, the 2004 film adaptation of the popular children’s book series, it’s only been since the spring 2011 release of Zack Snyder’s ambitious but misguided action spectacular, Sucker Punch, that she’s become a recognizable figure.
Sucker Punch was child’s play compared to her latest film, Sleeping Beauty. As statements of intent go, this one’s a doozy: the austere, unsettling, and unabashedly art-house tale of Lucy, an isolated, emotionally passive college student whose thirst for new experiences leads her to accept a position as a unique kind of prostitute. Drugged unconscious and placed in a bed, the pale and physically fragile Lucy becomes the unwitting receptacle for the sometimes lustful, sometimes nostalgic, and often violent fantasies of an elite group of elderly, impotent men.
Pretty Woman, this is not—nor does it retread the slick fanboy fantasies of Sucker Punch, which had Browning kicking ass as Babydoll, a victim of sexual assault who escapes into an imaginary brothel filled with killer babes. Sleeping Beauty, the directorial debut film from acclaimed Australian novelist Julia Leigh, is a bleak, painstakingly constructed look at exploitation and empowerment, a film that explores ideas of feminine allure and masculine fallibility in an icily clinical style inspired by European masters like Luis Buñuel, Michael Haneke, and Peter Greenaway.
Despite the apparent passivity of her character, this is a dynamic role for Browning: even stripped bare and rendered unconscious, she dominates every scene in the film. Whether or not such a (literally) naked performance will be embraced by audiences remains to be seen. At its Cannes premiere this year, the film divided its audience: there were those who commended its force and originality, and those who found it every bit as exploitative of its young starlet as Sucker Punch was. But one thing is certain: Sleeping Beauty is Browning’s first major bid for artistic credibility. It’s also the kind of juicy, headline-grabbing project guaranteed to attract the furtive attention of the tabloid media, and so she finds herself—as so many have found themselves before her—simultaneously attempting to embrace and ignore the hype.
“I’m trying to find my balance,” Browning says, when I ask if she’s been affected by the steady increase of attention. “I love what I do, and I’ve come to understand that a certain amount of publicity is necessary if I’m to keep working, but I still get nervous before an interview.” Browning is refreshingly open and remarkably vulnerable, onscreen and off, which is both a blessing (for us) and a curse (for her). “I’ve been burned before by talking too much in interviews,” says Browning, who has since been more guarded about what she chooses to reveal to the press. “But I’m not good at faking another version of myself,” she says. “I’m still trying to find my alter ego. Take this interview: I want to tell you about me, I want you to like me. I like to be liked, but that’s something I have to kill. It shouldn’t matter what people think of me.”
Browning was recently introduced to one of the more insidious aspects of the publicity game: paparazzi. “The idea of being followed by strangers with cameras really worries me,” she says. “I was with my boyfriend [actor Max Irons, Jeremy Irons’ son] and some friends after the first Sucker Punch screening in London. I’m not a drinker, but it was a big premiere—I was nervous—so I got a bit tipsy. We were outside having a cigarette, and we realized that some guy was filming us from around the corner. And I thought, How long has he been there, and what have we said? It was terrifying. I want to be in control of what people know about me.”
Although she gets annoyed by the infrequent intrusions of a roving reporter, she’s not looking for sympathy—or even normalcy. “I hate the word normal,” she says, smiling. “What does it mean, anyway? There are so many actresses trying to prove to everyone, ‘Look at me, I’m so normal!’ But my life isn’t normal. I travel the world, I work long hours, and when I’m not working I can spend weeks not doing anything at all. It’s not the same as a lot of other people’s lives. But when I go home and hang out with my friends and my family, they’re not affected by any of this. It’s not like I have a higher status in my friendship group or my family. No matter what parts I land, they’ll continue to take the piss out of me like they always have.”
Even after they’ve seen her projected against a 40-foot screen, stark-naked and being pawed by geriatrics? “Well, a few friends haven’t said anything about the movie, and I think that’s because they feel awkward that they’ve seen me naked,” she says. “When I told my Nana about the film, I was really nervous. I said, ‘Don’t get scared, but I’m going to be naked.’ And she said, ‘Do it while you’re young! You’ll look great!’ After she saw the film she said, ‘I loved every minute of it, except when you offered that man a blow job.’ That was the best reaction I’ve had. Maybe it would be weirder for my parents if I’d been in some really intense sex scenes. But the film is not erotic—it’s not sexy in any way.”
Browning appears very casual, even dismissive about the nudity in the film, but surely, I suggest cautiously, there must have been moments, particularly at first, when it felt unusual? “There was definitely a kind of nervousness that I’ve never felt before,” she admits. “But we eased into it gradually. By the time we got to the scenes where I had to be completely naked, I felt so comfortable with the crew and with Julia that it wasn’t such a big deal.”
For the film’s titular sleeping scenes, Leigh encouraged her actress to use meditation to achieve the stillness required of the moment. “It wasn’t like I signed up for David Lynch’s Transcendental Meditation workshop,” Browning says, laughing. “I just studied some breathing techniques, and I learned to be quiet. There must have been takes where I flinched, but mostly I was able to keep completely still.”
Despite their obvious physical similarities, the chatty, effortlessly charming young woman in the cafe bears almost no resemblance to the restrained, almost ghostly Lucy. “I can relate to her, but I’m not at all like her,” Browning says. “Lucy allows herself to be destroyed by outside forces; it’s almost nihilistic. I don’t think that was ever really me, but I’ve seen it in friends, the kind of people who do crazy shit, and seem to have no concern for the consequences.”
Given that the frank exploration of sexuality does, in very different ways, inform both of her recent roles, you’d be forgiven for pegging Browning as a libertine—but it’s feminism, not hedonism, that interests her. “Sexuality and gender are things that really interest me,” she says. “I have very strong ideas about the way women are portrayed on film. With Sucker Punch… ” She pauses, thinking carefully about how to phrase the next part of her answer. “Listen, I love that movie, and I had an amazing time working on it. But I do think that, for one reason or another, the message got slightly muddled. I’m a feminist, and I hoped that it would present an empowering message, but it got a bit lost. I would hate for anyone to watch Sucker Punch and think that it’s important for girls to look sexy if they’re going to be tough.”
Some viewers were violently offended by Sucker Punch’s depictions of women— “misogynistic” was an adjective regularly used to condemn the film in reviews—and many of the critics got distinctly personal, though their fury was generally directed at director Snyder, rather than his cast, which also included Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, and Vanessa Hudgens. “I don’t read reviews,” Browning says firmly. “I think that once you’ve made something, you have to let it go. If you keep worrying about what people think of you, you’ll go insane.”
The cliché of the doe-eyed starlet who gets chewed up and spit out by the Hollywood machine is as old as the movie industry itself, but so is the tale of the presumed innocent who turns out to be an unstoppable force of nature. As Browning sits across from me talking about her hopes for the future, although she’s still young and relatively inexperienced, it becomes clear that there’s strength in that slender frame, and a spark of steel behind those wide open eyes.
Since emerging from the ether in December 2009, the enigmatic electronic band and multimedia project has built a cult-like following of disciples dying to know: Who are these people? Through a series of interconnected videos layered with mysterious symbology, they’ve given us clues—a lock of blonde hair sent to MTV’s James Montgomery, numeric codes, animal drawings—but two years into their elaborate mystery, we’re still stumped. The only thing we do know is that they’re led by Swedish singer-songwriter Jonna Lee. We’re not even sure which member of iamamiwhoami completed the following interview, because, as their representative tells us, “This project has chosen not to confirm or comment on the creators’ involvement for the reason of letting their music and film speak for itself.”
BULLETT: What is your bounty?
Iamamiwhoami: My mind, my dream that grows inside of me. I’m on a hunt to find the cure.
Who is the small child you dream of?
Something for us to nurse and grow that thrives from me and you both. Is it a sad, sad sight viewed from afar?
Do you think nature is at all allied with human civilization?
You can either accept or deny the task that has been given you.
Is purity precious to you?
I grow up to be just like that.
What is your relationship to the earth? To the spiritual world?
It’s where it all began. Who knew what I would turn into?
Have you fulfilled the circle of life several times?
There’s a hunt. Who’s standing tall? Someone who dares to lose it all.
Is this a spiritual journey?
You keep pace.
Is it important to define a boundary between the immortal soul and the body?
My worst fear is real life. When all this is done we can do the things we said we would.
Are you free?
Until morning forces us to climb back down.
Will nature conquer all?
You and I, we walk about, we know about the hole in the floor. I wanted us to live in times of bliss.
Do you resent science?
They guard their secret with their lives. We raise our children to the beat of its comforting pounding.
How did you first learn of your origins?
Sprung from necessity when something changed in you. And the purest of hearts let their spirits be consumed.
Do you have the ability to love? If so, were you born with it or was it learned?
As I stay a little while longer I am damaged in the making but I force myself towards departing. I have to be the rascal taking all.
Would you ever hang a man just to produce a child?
It’s how it goes.
Do you feel alone in the universe?
The farthest one can come too close.
Do you feel that animals are more sympathetic to your predicament than humans?
A heavy sigh then not a sound.
Do you think you’ll ever be quite understood?
You see the overall of what we are.
Would you like to be?
This want is making me soar.
When you commune with nature, do you trust it?
Weakness, loss, and greed are the proceeds of your reality. Now we built a fort so strong to hold the ashes of your town.
Do you seek revenge?
Listen to the words I sing that for this occasion I chose.
Can you be trusted?
You never had a true friend like I. Now I’m granting you all.
There was need for a reply.
What does a cat represent to you? A dog?
A pinion of labors men as capable as trust.
Do you feel safer in nature or in the anonymity of cyberspace?
This is home. This is wealth. I can watch from a distance with the greatest view.
Why do you communicate with the outside world?
If there’s a want for something new you might find me at the start or where it ends for you. We know about the chance of more.
Why speak in codes?
What is expected, to carry you in my arms?
Are you hesitant to reveal something?
This is the way we do things. Take a bite. Let it sink in for a new beginning.
Do you live in “our” world? Where do you live?
I belong with my self-built grounds. We make a neat and tidy house but the walls keep growing thinner.
Where is ShootUpTheStation?
Heading home to where days are nights. Now I’m as good as can be.
Why bring an outsider into your world to participate?
Who knows my world who shares my view?
What was his purpose?
His methods were all tried and true.
Who terrifies you the most?
The one molded like she’s shaped in size with anyone.
Do you like men?
Who’s ready to take the fall for it?
Are you searching for your identity?
Who am I when all I am is your designated wife.
Is there anything of greater value than identity?
If my hands weren’t so very sharp. You feel better now?