Aside from having the most amazing head of hair in movie history, Anna Karina is best known for being an icon of the Nouvelle Vague. But few know her incredible life story. She was born in Copenhagen in 1940 to an unhappy home with an abusive step-father. Anna dreamed about becoming an actress, it was her heart’s greatest desire, but the sadness and struggle of daily life made that dream seem completely unattainable.
One day in 1958, when the abuse at home reached a boiling point, Anna ran away to Paris. Just to give you a grasp of this incredible woman’s bravery and resilience in the face of impossible obstacles, she arrived in Paris with the equivalent of $15 in her pocket, and spoke no French whatsoever. She taught herself how to speak the language by watching French movies, over and over again, until she understood what the characters were saying.
She was poor and starving when, by sheer chance, she was finally discovered, sitting alone at the infamous Les Deux Magots cafe, where everyone from Hemingway and Picasso to Camus used to meet. Her career started as a model, and reached its climax as one of Europe’s biggest movie stars. This new chapter in her life was marked by a passionate and volatile romance with famed French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard who helped make her famous. Their relationship was painted with scandal, betrayal and attempted suicide.
In Anna’s own words, “It was a strange love story from the beginning. I could see Jean-Luc was looking at me all the time, and I was looking at him too, all day long. We were like animals. One night we were at this dinner. My boyfriend, who was a painter, was there too. And suddenly I felt something under the table – it was Jean-Luc’s hand. He gave me a piece of paper and then left. I went into another room to see what he’d written. It said, ‘I love you. Rendezvous at midnight at the Café de la Prez.’ And then my boyfriend came into the room and demanded to see the piece of paper, and he took my arm and grabbed it and read it. He said, ‘You’re not going.’ And I said, ‘I’ve been in love with him since I saw him the second time. And I can’t do anything about it.’ It was like something electric. I walked there, and I remember my painter was running after me crying. I was, like, hypnotized – it never happened again to me in my life.“
Jean Luc and Anna tore each other apart, argued, loved and hated each other all at once. Theirs was a chaotic but very passionate love, which eventually it burned out, neither willing or psychologically able to carry the relationship forwerd. But to this day Anna maintains that it was the greatest love of her life.So where is she now? One thing is for sure, she didn’t just fade away. Now at 73 Anna has four novels under her belt, a successful singing career as well as several plays and movies. In a world that’s both obsessed with chasing the next big thing, it’s important to take a moment to appreciate this incredible woman’s life and career.