The video begins with a journey through a dark environment wrought with cables and a faint pulsating light. The sequence has been described as “womb-like, voyeuristic, as if the black box of technology is about to open up”. The camera follows these cables to an ethereal, white room where a robot with Björk’s features lies in a fetal position. As the room lightens up, two mechanical arms begin to assemble the robot, which opens its eyes and begins to sing the song. Pistons pumping white fluids, as well as drilling and penetrative motions are seen, featuring a “clear” sexual subtext.
Now sitting upright, the robot looks up to see another robotic Björk as the machines stop the assembly. It smiles and extends its hand to the sitting robot, joining in the song. In the climax of the video, the robots passionately kiss and embrace while the machines assemble their backs and light comes and goes. The images of the kissing robots are interposed with shots of white fluid washing over robotic parts and the mechanical arms assembling them. According to the Institute for the Unstable Media, “as the music fades and the pulsating beat becomes more dominant, we are once again drawn in the womb-like dark space, making it clear to us that we sampled a glimpse of a black-boxed kingdom”.
The music video for “All Is Full of Love” was directed by Chris Cunningham. Björk was impressed by Cunningham’s original music videos for IDM musicians Autechre, Squarepusher, and Aphex Twin, and by his clear lines, science fiction inclinations, and discordant imagery. This resulted in the singer contacting him to meet at his London office; she brought a Chinese Kama Sutra as a guide to what she wanted. Cunningham had also associated the track with sex upon hearing it, but could not figure out how to make the video explicit yet broadcastable. Regarding this, the singer confessed, “I think the only thing I said was that I thought it was very white […] and I’m trying to describe some sort of a heaven. But I wanted also to have the other level there, there would be lust, it wouldn’t be just clean”. She complemented saying she mentioned that the video should be “white” and “frozen”, and then it “melts because of love” and “making love”.
A drawing of a cyborg smiling and of two robots kissing
Concept art by Chris Cunningham. Initially, the two protagonist robots would unfold like a flower as they mated, but the team could not manage to materialize this thought.
When Cunningham first heard the track, he wrote down the words “milk”, “sexual”, “surgery”, and “white porcelain”; they outline what would become the music video. Concerning this, Cunningham added that it was like Kama Sutra meeting Industrial Robotics and that because of the surreal nature of the images, they could be “sexually suggestive” as they liked. Initially, it was planned that during the visual’s ending, the robots would unfold like a flower as they mated, revealing an abstract life form made from the two artificial forms. However, the team could not manage to materialize this thought.
The robots were designed by Cunningham and were built in full-size by Paul Catling — who had also sculpted the masks for Aphex Twin’s “Windowlicker” (1999) — in clay in two hours. He also worked with Julian Caldow in set design, which was created by Chris Oddy. The treatment described the set as an “elegant” and “white environment” with “a Japanese feel to it”. However, the music video’s director was dissatisfied with the result and relied heavily on post-production. On the shoot there were two main robot arms, but during its post production, a third and fourth robot arm were created in computer-generated imagery.
The video was shot at Bray Studios and Greenford Studios, and post-production was handled by Glasswork using the software programs Softimage and Flame. Cunningham said that every shot in the clip had four layers. He reportedly first shot the set and the props doing nothing for about 21 seconds, and then removed the robot and replaced it with Björk, who had her face painted white and wore a blue suit. Using a mix of the master shot and a live feed of Björk in frame, the production team tried to match up her face and the robot body as much as possible. Only the singer’s eyes and mouth were used, with the rest of the robot representing 3D animation traced from her real head. Cunningham has described the filming process as an unpleasant experience:
I always think that my strength is […] sculpting stuff up in [post-production] and then, a lot of the time things are pretty ramshackle while they’re shot. And I think that with the video that was the most extreme example of that, I mean it really was a disaster […] In the Avid, looking at this stuff, it just looked awful and I actually had a panic attack when I went to the telecine to look at the rushes. I just thought “this is a fucking disaster, […] so cheap and nasty. At it was only when Glassworks started doing the computer graphics that […] I started to realise how the video was gonna be made completely with the computer graphic addition.
Björk left Cunningham alone to work for the video, refusing to see the product until it was finished, explaining that “when you come across someone as special as Chris you just go humble”, which Cunningham said made the work much easier.
(Text via Wikipedia)