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Jonas Åkerlund at Liberatum

Sweden's legendary video director talks story-to-screen at Liberatum’s recent stop in Berlin

by Ariston Anderson in Culture on 17 July 2012

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Liberatum, the global series of summits and seminars that celebrate creativity in its many forms, made a stop in Berlin to celebrate the opening of the new Soho House apartments. The program brought together great minds and big names like Stephen Frears, Jonas Åkerlund, James Franco, Kim Cattrall, Marianne Faithfull and Carmen Dell'Orefice to discuss their respective areas of expertise in film, music and fashion. Curated by Britain's industrious young entrepreneur Pablo Ganguli, Liberatum focuses on connecting leading cultural minds in major cities of the world.

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Soho House Berlin has opened 20 apartments for short-term or long-term living in its historic building in Mitte, the rooms adding more booking options to the in-demand accommodations in the massive building. Guests are treated to hip Berlin living while enjoying first-class service and access to all Soho House amenities such as a pool, spa, room service and full-size Cowshed products in the bathrooms. Soho House Berlin plans to launch more housing options in the upcoming year, including a handful of sprawling loft apartments.

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Liberatum made full use of the various spaces to host the summit. In addition to artist talks, dinners and general enjoyment of Soho House's lush cocktail spaces, Liberatum screened recent work from the directors, including "Tiny Apartments," Jonas Åkerlund's third feature-length film. The Swedish director is best known for making iconic videos for 25 years for the likes of Prodigy's "Smack my Bitch Up," Lady Gaga's "Telephone," Metallica's "Turn the Page," Madonna's "Ray of Light" and "Mein Land" by Rammstein, a band he frequently collaborates with when in Berlin. As of late, Åkerlund has been increasingly focused on longer-form storytelling. "Small Apartments"—a black comedy set in the less-glamorous side of Hollywood—premiered this year at SXSW.

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Åkerlund, who got his start as a drummer in the Swedish black metal band Bathory, can trace his signature editing style back to his own drumming style. With quick cuts or sped-up characters, Åkerlund believes the story is best told through the editing process. He still takes a very hands-on approach to editing, working late into the night once the shooting wraps.

He explained to a gathered group in the Soho House's Red Room how his skills in making music videos and commercials translated into longer works. "You use everything you can to make an impression in a very short amount of time," he said. "Of course, if you translate that into a movie it becomes very in your face. I have that in my blood. There's no other way I can do it."

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The talk ended with a screening of Åkerlund's nine-minute video for Duran Duran's "Girl Panic." "The video reunites the world's top supermodels, Naomi Campbell, Helena Christensen, Cindy Crawford and Eva Herzigova, to play Duran Duran in a typical night of concert and behind-the-scenes debauchery. Åkerlund explained that he is often influenced by fashion, because it's an industry where trends change by the minute.

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Åkerlund reminisced about the early days of music videos when the brief was to simply break all the rules and do whatever necessary to get attention for the band. Then with shows like "Total Request Live," that changed to do whatever necessary to get a spot on the charts, thus copying the other videos. Today, with the rebirth of the Internet, where the music video is used less for pure promotion, the allowance for creativity is coming back in a big way. Åkerlund is focused on the stories to come, long and short. "The first 10 years are the most fun," he said. "Everything is fun. Then it loses its fun. Then your body of work becomes what you're most proud of, and you keep working."

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