In person, though, Olsen’s lingering reputation as a sad girl singing sad songs seems ill fitting. She’s direct, deliberate and carefully calibrated, with a sly sense of humor, full of coolly ironic asides and unexpected absurdism. “I don’t know if I would listen to my music if I weren’t the person who made it,” she told me. “I don’t know if it would be my vibe.” A few weeks after we met, she sent me a video of herself, curled up inside a large cardboard box, pulling the lid down over her elfin face and pouting: “People are always putting me in boxes!”
Ingmar Bergman might well have recognized the deep curiosity that drives these films: Like Bergman, Lanthimos is fascinated by the drive for control — in both its mundanities and extremes — and by the inscrutability of human behavior. But if Bergman’s work elevates these struggles to the realm of the metaphysical, Lanthimos’s approach is less lofty, ballasted by blood and grit. An ordinary toaster becomes a device for punishment; a woman is ferried to an ophthalmologist’s office in order to be blinded for her transgressions against the community.
Apocalypse, Girl borrows as much from pop music's playbooks as it does from minimalist, avant-garde electronica, with an intricate and choreographed sound that Hval says marks a different way of working and recording from her earlier albums. For this record, she spent more time than ever before in the studio tweaking vocals and backing tracks, working "with such detail, almost to the point of the detail which a writer has when they edit, with control over each word." Reproducing the full sonic texture of the album live seemed like a disappointing project until she realized that the very impossibility of the task offered her more room for spontaneity and play, "a much bigger palette to work from, an opening for including a lot of influences and thought, more spontaneous ideas."