Sunday, February 24, 2008

I went for the abandoned buildings, and I got Iceland and community as well.

I'm a fan of the Icelandic band Sigur Rós' music - I own a few CDs but have never seen them in concert - but ever since hearing raves about Heima, I've been waiting for the opportunity to see the film on the big screen.

First, I heard that Heima was a great rock doc, and then I read the following sentence in press materials for last night's screening at Scandinavia House: They played in deserted fish factories, outsider art follies, far-flung community halls, sylvan fields, darkened caves, and the huge, horseshoe-shaped Ásbyrgi Canyon (formed, legend has it, by the hoofprint of Odin's six-legged horse Sleipnir). Wow! Since I've also been daydreaming about visiting Iceland, well, that's a lot of reasons to see one movie, right?

Heima was astoundingly beautiful and wonderful. The film documents Sigur Rós playing two weeks of gigs across its country. Each show is incredibly different: the concert in Reykjavík is a large, crowded outdoor event; the band plays at a community center in Kirkjubaejarklaustar at a Thorablod meal (extreme foodies take note!); a protest against a dam is the site of another show; etc.

The music was wonderful, and the movie does provide an overall context for the band's sound. At one point, one of the band members talks about the Icelandic need for "space", and SR's music definitely conveys Space (not the extraterrestrial kind, but the one of topological space, distance, area, and volume).

But moving past the music...the two sites featured in Heima most relevant for this blog are the abandoned fish factory in Djupavik and an artist's former home in Selardalur.

The band's tour journal describes the visit to the abandoned fish factory moderately well, and I'm sure that many of this blog's readers can appreciate the desire to crawl through the pipe leading to the site. (Is this how the audience entered the space?)

A detailed excerpt from the tour journal brings some intimate details:

the pipe is too small for the guitar amp to fit through into the tank and it stands outside in the grass pointing towards jonsi some metres distant. occasionally the gulls and arctic terns wheeling overhead outside are audible through an open square in the roof and these will probably be evident on the finished recording being captured by ken and biggi on the other end of the pipe.

once this is over, the band move to the factory for the first time, where they discover their gear is too tightly arranged between decaying and anomalous american automobiles in the dark concrete skeleton of dead building.

The fish factory looks like a hip nightclub in some shots, and the song's churchlike sound ends with a cacophonic burst of energy.

Performing in the abandoned fish factory. (movie still)

An internet search provides little information about the site in Selardalur, except that it is indeed a tourist destination in the West fjords area of Iceland. The concert segment is filmed at an artist named Samuel's former farmhouse. Looking at the site, I can't help but wonder how much longer that farmhouse is going to stand upright, hence GO VISIT SELARDALUR NOW!

This shot was on the screen for about two seconds, and there was no information about where it was located. (movie still)

Besides these two locations, I enjoyed two other things about the movie: the nature and audience shots. The audience at most of the shows was pretty diverse, age-wise. Senior citizens, infants, adolescents, teenagers, young name it. Everyone looks beautiful while listening to music. These concerts were community get-togethers.

The following notes reflect the nature seen in this film: strong sense of narration with the sea, waterfalls, fields, mountains, birds in caves, birds in sky, iceberg floating in water, footprints drying in the sand, landscapes of houses/boats/communities, fog & mist moving across mountains, stones, a man who makes instruments from rhubarb.

The trailer for the movie can be seen here.

These Sigur Rós videos were screened before the start of the movie:

Hoppipolla; Glósóli; Svefn-g-englar; Viorar Vel Til Loftarasa; Untitled #1 (aka Vaka).

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