It's a rare occasion when you attend an industry film premiere and a spontaneous round of applause erupts at the final credits. It's even rarer when it's a band on-the-road documentary, attended by predominately fickle, chin-stroking music critics. Just like their music, Sigur Ros' debut film 'Heima' is a work of startling genius and beauty. Meticulously shot, almost every frame is breathtaking and perfectly compliments the organic, tingling music that provides the backdrop.
In the summer of 2006, Sigur Ros were reaching the end of the extensive world tour of their acclaimed fourth album 'Takk'. Having played some of the globe's most famous venues, for a group who count Brad Pitt amongst their celebrity super-fans, coming back to their wondrous native land was always going to be a humbling and very grounding experience. To mark their return, the foursome announced seven secret shows at various remote corners of the country, culminating with a massive homecoming Reykjavik show in front of one tenth of the country's population. To document the occasion they drafted in Oscar-nominated director (for animated Disney movie Lilo & Stitch) and new-found friend Dean DeBlois to make a film, which they aptly named 'Heima' - Icelandic for Homeland.
Thankfully, unlike other rockumentaries, from the offset both band and director treated the project incredibly seriously. As DeBlois notes: "Their ambitious gesture of playing free, unannounced concerts in every corner of Iceland struck me as noble and beautifully strange - something unheard of in our jaded world. I wanted to present an intimate view of the band and their country from my own wonder-filled, foreign eyes." No expense spared, the filming involved a crew of over 40 people trekking around 15 awe-inspiring sites on Iceland to record the band at work - both onstage and at various rural retreats. And the investment has clearly paid off.
Shot in high resolution capturing the boundless colours the almost alien landscape has to offer, every single shot is a feast for the eyes. 'Heima' doesn't just contain visuals to provide a background to the music - instead they work together in perfect harmony. Recurring themes of dramatic desolate landscapes, black volcanic rocks from which the country was born from, quaint local life and sheer space and isolation all continuously weave throughout the film. Yet, despite the seemingly negative connotations of these ideas, themes of warmth, happiness (in the children, adults and pensioners all wearing their endearing matching knitted jumpers and sporting rosy faces) and the idea of the free spirit truly shine through.
Interspersed with the depictions of the Icelandic landscapes are interviews with the band themselves and their string quartet and oft support act Amiina. Notoriously interview shy and also quiet onstage, it’s great to see the human side of Jón Þór Birgisson, Georg Hólm, Kjartan Sveinsson and Orri Páll Dýrason. Speaking in their part Bjork / part Peter Schmeichal / part Welsh accents, they’re decidedly non-arrogant and unassuming despite their global success and over 2million album sales under their belt.
However, against all the visual treats and exclusive interviews, for a band with such a spectacular back-catalogue it’s the music that shines through. As well as live renditions of such favourites as ‘Hoppipola’, ‘Von’ and ‘Glossoli’, we also get two exclusive new tracks – ‘Guitardjamm’, filmed inside an abandoned fishing tanker and ‘A Ferd Til Breidarffjarder 1922’, performed alongside the impossibly deep voiced poet Steindor Anderson and a standout film moment. The documentary naturally climaxes like a Sigur Ros set does – the crashing, spine-tingling wall of sound that is ‘Popplagid’ in front of the biggest crowd of the band’s life - 20,000 people in Reykjavik. The foundations of the cinema shook as it gloriously bellowed out.
For Sigur Ros fans, ‘Heima’ is as essential as a heartbeat. For those of you not attuned to their mind-blowing brilliance, it may well convert you.
Released in UK cinemas beginning November 2007
Released on DVD - November 5, 2007