I saw Sigur Ros about two years ago, and nothing could have prepared me for the sheer heart wrenching turmoil I experienced. I don't know what's in Iceland's waters to make music from there so wonderfully amazing (Bjork, hello - I'm talking to you), but I was sold sitting in the Paramount Theatre with a group of friends who had introduced me to the group.
You know how there are those moments in life where everything unexpected happens, and this sense of your speech is stripped of your throat so much that any noise you try to initiate is muted? That's really how I feel about Sigur Ros, and I don't even consider myself to be a gigantic fan. But this band - they have a hold over me. I am captivated within the first notes. I sit down to listen and immerse myself wholly and fully to every click, every turn, every movement in prose and composition. Bands these days rarely make me stop in on their MySpace pages, let alone move me in such a way. Describe the magnitude of this band? The crazy but endearingly heavy voice, the soft percussion, the weird instruments and atypical brass/distortion, all the layering, the build-ups and the utter shattering of expectations of where the song is going, the wall of sound that brings you in, the woozy but haunting keys and tiny sounds that make everything? Dude, I'm totally getting emotional just thinking about it.
We had a chance to screen the new Sigur Ros documentary and listen to the soundtrack for Heima, a beautiful film shot in 2006. Our emotional state was shot after being audibly assaulted, in the good way.
After the band toured the world in venues we're used to being in, the guys returned to their native Iceland to play free, unannounced shows nearly anywhere that would take them: in front of a dam, a reception hall, a farm with some cows outside.
The film opens with people silk screening T-shirts and is divided into chapters of the places Sigur Ros plays, which is annotated each time someone makes a new T-shirt with the name of the city on the chest. Ideas of giving back and coming home are emphasized by all the members of Sigur Ros throughout the film, who also appear for interviews in between songs. "It just seemed what we had to do," one of them says in his cute Icelandic accent.
Heima is as much of a typical band documenting their tour experiences as the next guys, but underlying themes and wonderfully shot footage set apart the film on its own. Landscape changes and gentrification that's scoped Iceland like wildfire is addressed, and the band teamed up with the Icelandic Historical Society to intersplice early footage with what the modern locations look like. At Karahnjuka, a dam has been installed after much resistance from the community there; it was not the most viable option for the town and could have been worked out otherwise. The band performs acoustically in front of the dam, part free concert motive, and part political stance. The performance is acoustic, as the dam represents electricity unnecessarily required, and the wind stops howling loudly almost as if to give the group permission to perform - it picks up after they finish. It is such an epic showcase for lead singer JÃ³n _Ã³r Birgisson's voice, which has the time to develop these dark, beautiful cadences and grand, sprawling falsettos in his vocal capacity, I'll admit it - I totally cried at the end of the song out of its sheer beauty.
I hugged all my friends I went to see the film with afterwards. Heima seriously makes you love humans; you see grandparents bringing their grandchildren to these shows, people touching each other for comfort and love; people bundling up to come together not only to watch a band play but also to be with each other; people eating sandwiches and flying kites and drinking tea. This overwhelming sense of love comes over you and instills faith in a side of humanity we don't celebrate often. The film has a romantic feel to it, with each segment color rich with eye candy. If not for the fact that Sigur Ros is in the film playing music, Heima is also worth watching for great cinematography and imagery. While the editing can be a little shaky at parts to tell the story cohesively, the movie captures the essence of Iceland and will make you 'want to go home' too.