Sixties Icon. Goddess wife of Godard. Muse of Serge Gainsbourg.

The story of Anna Karina is a classic fairy tale. A dark twisted tale of fame, fortune and glory. A tale of chasing the dream and never taking no for an answer.

A runaway at just seventeen, Anna Karina – born Hanne Karin Bayer in Copenhagen on the 22nd of September, 1940 – fled her native Denmark in search of a better life in the French capital, after achieving moderate success, starring in Danish silent movie The Girl with the Shoes.

She arrived in Paris in the summer of 1958, mainly by hitchhiking, and – with little money on her hands – often lived on the streets, or sat in cinemas all day long, in order to keep warm and to learn the language from watching the French movies of the day.

Her lucky break came one day after strolling along the River Seine, when she sat down for a moment at Les Deux Magots – a famous hangout for the in-crowd at the time – to rest her feet.

She was approached by a woman named Catherine Harlé, who asked her to do some photos for her and most importantly, put her in contact with some of the big names in the fashion industry and it wouldn’t be long before Anna found herself on the cover of Elle.

One day while on set she met the legendary Coco Chanel who asked her what she ‘really’, wanted to do with her life. When Hanna explained that she wanted to be an actress, Coco rechristened her Anna Karina on the spot, since Hanne didn’t go down well with the French language.

She soon met her future husband, French director Jean Luc-Godard and the rest in history. Over the next decade Anna appeared in a number of his most acclaimed films.

Check out titles such as 1963’s Le Petit Soldat, and Bande à part from 1964 just to mention a few.

The marriage didn’t last forever, but there was more to life – and other opportunities were waiting in the wings.

The hugely influential multi-artiste, Serge Gainsbourg saw great potential in Anna and wrote a TV musical entitled Anna, especially for her.

The film, which included the hits ‘Sous le soleil exactement’ and ‘Roller Girl’, both sung by Karina, has since become a cult favourite.

Serge, is now long gone. But the star of Anna Karina is still shining bright above a planet that will have to look long and hard to find her equal.

Tomorrow she is turning 75. We wish her a happy birthday.

Watch Anna and Serge serenading each other in a beautiful embrace.


Words: Anders Knudsen