Once upon a time I was a music critic. I am republishing this review, posted years ago on the now defunct dabbler.ca, on the eve of the Sigur Rós concert in Deer Lake Park. This will be the first time the love of my life Angela and I get to see the band that brought us together live in concert.
An editor once told me “if you’re going to write a biased review, don’t write it at all.” So let me be clear. This is not a review but a recommendation.
Watch the movie Heima by Icelandic band Sigur Rós. Or better yet, go watch them in concert.. If you know the band I don’t need to explain why. If you don’t, I promise you it will change your perception of what music can be. How often can you say you went to a concert movie and saw people crying openly during the screening, not because they were upset, but because the music invoked such strong emotions?
I can say with certainty that Sigur Rós does something no other band can. They perform musical alchemy, transforming simple harmonies into real life manifestations of pure emotion. Those who have experienced it describe it as an almost religious revelation – a spiritual awakening. I have yet to find a person who does not on some level feel drawn to their music. And you’ve probably heard it, though you may not have been aware of it. Did you ever see the trailer for the movie Children of Men? The one with the haunting music in the background that drew you in? Their music is used everywhere, you just don’t know who they are. Well, now you will.
Heima (“home” in Icelandic) is a film that lives on the fringe of the definition of live concert feature. Following on the heels of their successful 2006 world tour, it tells the story of the band’s journey across Iceland as they play free unannounced concerts in the most unusual places for the people who have supported them throughout their career. It was their way of giving back to the country that birthed them and giving people a reason to come together with no strings attached. All the concerts were filmed with the intention of compiling them into a concert movie, but for various reasons it would take almost two years for it to make it to the big screen. In the end, it was Canadian director Dean DeBlois who weaved the story and made what could have been a standard live video into a work of art.
The movie features stellar live performances of the band’s most loved and haunting tracks, all recorded in different locations, all performed with the utmost skill and a complete lack of pretense. We see the band in the cellar of an abandoned fish factory, on the site of a demonstration against a dam project, in an old assembly hall with a stage that barely fits, in an open field – all places that in their own way shed light on where the band comes from and gives new meaning to their music as it is woven into a rich history and culture. Masterfully cut into and in between the performances are candid conversations with the band members, giving us the first true glimpse into the minds of these musical virtuosi. Sigur Rós’ members have become notorious for refusing to do interviews or press of any kind and when they do, little material of use is produced. I guess in a world saturated with celebrity gossip it can be hard to understand, but the culture they come from (the culture I grew up in) is one where self promotion is frowned upon and you are expected to keep a low profile no matter how famous you become. The band lives this philosophy to the fullest and refuses to let anything but the music speak for them, which is why the sound bites are so special, both for fans and fans to be – they give a new understanding of where the band comes from and what they are about.
It is hard for me to put into words why you should watch this movie and why after watching it you will buy their albums. Sigur Rós has a special place in the hearts of Angela and myself – in many ways their music is the reason we are together. But it goes beyond that. Like I said before, they are musical alchemists. They don’t simply make music; they create emotion. There are songs they play that make people cry, not out of pain or awe or anything like that. They cry because the songs do something to them – help them access deeply rooted emotions that need an outlet; carry them over to a different level of consciousness. It’s not astrology or anything like that. They just happen to have found the perfect tune, and they keep finding it again and again in different permutations. It transcends description.
So like I said, find the movie and treat yourself to this musical and filmatic masterpiece. Watch it with your husband, your wife, your teenage rebellious kid or your sibling. Share the experience with those you love and they will love you for it.