Last week I saw Sigur Ros’ Heima (official site; another official site) documentary/ concert film as part of the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival. It’s a spectacular film. I highly recommend seeing it in a theater if you can as it’ll lose some of its magnificence on DVD.
After many tours encompassing the globe, Sigur Ros came home to Iceland (Heima means “at home” or “homeland”) and decided to put on a series of free and often unconventional shows. The took recording equipment and cameras along and produced this movie. You can read more about the tour itself in their tour diary.
In short, what you get is Sigur Ros playing in an abandoned fish factory or in a statue park between two houses sitting in ruins. They play in a social club and at a protest camp (for a dam being built). Sometimes they play to no one and sometimes they play to tens of thousands. There are also section of the band talking about the door, their music and their relationship with Iceland.
If you find Sigur Ros’ music emotional, then I’m sure you’ll find this film emotional as well, possibly more so. I haven’t seen them live and it seems my chance has passed to see them in any sort of space that could possibly be called intimate. But I was trying to explain to a friend that I think this movie might be better than a live performance could be–these are pretty amazing musical and visual settings together, each working each other in a way I don’t think you can get in the live venue.
The sound is good throughout. Whether playing indoor or out, it seems that the sound is pretty consistent and good through, with the possible exception being, I believe, “Vaka” (“Untitled #1″ from () ) in the protest camp scene. Having difficulties with their equipment and realizing the point of the protest camp, the band goes for a no-mic set up, playing only to the camera’s mics which are buffeted by wind. The music, of course, is pretty amazing–it’s Sigur Ros playing in their normal set up or acoustically and playing well throughout. The power of the music is such that I had chills within about five minutes of the beginning of the film during the “Glosoli”.
What sets the movie apart, though, are the visuals. Iceland is beautiful, just absolutely gorgeous. If there’s one drawback of seeing this movie–if you’re not super rich, at least–is that you can’t go to Iceland immediately after seeing it. You’ll probably want to go if you don’t already. The combined visuals and sound first really hit you during the “Heysatan” sequence, in that sculpture area between two houses that sit in ruins and surrounded by dark, lush green mountains with black volcanic rock outcroppings. The band is huddled quite closely together in the cold and “Heysatan” is so fragile and tense that I thought it would burst at any moment.
The peak of the movie is that protest camp scene with “Vaka”. They band members talk of this dam that’s being built before the start of that scene and then they just show the band and their immediate surroundings. In one of many examples of good editing, right with the Big Moment of the song hits, they show the dam itself for the first time: big, monstrous and jarring in the context of the beautiful landscape. That moment hit me hard with emotion and I had to blink my eyes to keep things from getting blurry.
The only negative I can think of is that the interviews sometimes overlap instrumental parts of the music. I’d rather the music just be left alone most of the time. I feel like should temper this review somehow, saying my experience–like those in weight loss commercials on TV–may not be typical, but I really do think this is a pretty amazing film and I’m not going to make excuses for that.
It’s available now from insound.
Unfortunately there aren’t any SF screenings coming up–Amoeba showed it a few weeks ago, but that’s it on the current schedule. You can check here for future screenings–U.S. residents in Cincinnati, Tulsa and Madison get lucky, while the U.K. and other places have more showings. Check them out below the break.
Hvarf-Heim is the double-disc CD version to accompany the movie. The first disc is new, mostly unreleased electric (regular) Sigur Ros recordings. Three are new songs and two are rerecorded versions of older songs. The second disc is six acoustic versions of songs from their four albums as seen in the film.
I was immediately drawn to the second disc more. I like stripped down versions of songs and Sigur Ros’ stripped down versions are pretty spectacular. The one exception on this disc is the version of “Agaetis Byrjun”, the instrumentation of which I felt came across as sort of cheesy.
I like the recordings–the “Heysatan” version here is quite a bit better than the Takk version, for instance–but the overall album isn’t as can’t-miss as the film.
It’s available at insound.
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