Movie note: Sigur Rós at home in Iceland

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The ethereal beauty of Sigur Rós’s music is intensified via a gorgeous depiction of Iceland in their 2006 film Heima. Heima (Icelandic for “at home” or “homebound”) provides rare insight into one of the world’s most enigmatic bands.

Heima, a documentary film directed by Dean DeBlois. Screening at the St. Anthony Main Theater on October 24 (7:15 p.m.) and 26 (9:00 p.m.) as part of the Sound Unseen film festival. Admission $8. For more information, see soundunseen.com.


Upon returning home from their international “Takk” tour, Sigur Rós performed free, largely unannounced concerts in several Iceland locations to “give back to the people.” Heima was shot by an Icelandic film crew in over 15 locations—from a town hall to the fields, a deserted fish factory, a cave, a hydrodam protest camp site (prior to it being tragically flooded), to their last and largest concert in Reykjavic.

“Chapters” in Heima harmoniously depict breathtaking landscapes of various performance locations with Sigur Rós’s music. Behind a vast screen casting eerie shadows and sparkles of light like water on a surface and starlit skies, sonorous horns and strings fill the air, with Kjartan (Kjarri) Sveinsson’s xylophone tinkling like ice drops, backed by the slow primal thunder of Orri Páll Dyrason’s drums, while Jón Bor (Jónsi) Birgisson’s haunting, high vocals flow through the sweeping layers of the song…all poignantly juxtaposed with footage of stark landscapes, dramatic waterflows, and ancient rock formations. The natural landscape and sculptural abandoned structure footage, remniscent of sculptor Andy Goldsworthy’s film Rivers and Tides, is artistically combined with vintage film of fish factories and Icelandic culture.

The band’s performances are at times scaled down to acoustic, or one mic, in cold sleeting rain, in the vast hoofprint of Odin’s horse, Sleipnir, in the cavernous remnants of a fish factory (looking much like the Soap Factory), to their epic climactic Reykjavik concert, with elements of surprise and humor interspersed—for example, Sveinsson demonstrates a slate xylophone and Birgisson uses century-old rhubarb stalks for percussion. The incorporation of an ancient form of Icelandic chanting illustrates how Sigur Rós use their roots as a touchstone for their music, and we see (and hear) how their environment shapes their music as well.

Between “chapters,” there are brief interviews with band members. Birgisson likens a Sigur Rós song to a sculpture. “We mold it, form it, until it makes some whole.” Throughout, there are candid shots of Sigur Rós’s rapt audiences—from small children to the elderly, giving a sense of the band’s diverse fan community. An Icelandic violinist for Sigur Rós said of their concerts, “They’ve taught us how to do things without planning, without speaking. It was [like] joining the soul of the Icelandic people.”

Heima is most highly recommended, whether you’ve heard Sigur Rós or not. It’s a riveting film of epic beauty and gorgeous proportions, langorous song with slow, meditative scenes building up to a moving climax.

Cyn Collins is a Twin Cities freelance arts and culture writer. She is the author of West Bank Boogie, a substitute programmer at KFAI, and an assistant producer of Write On Radio.

Also in the Daily Planet, read Erik T on Sigur Rós’s Minneapolis performance at the Orpheum Theatre.

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