Sigur Rós

Heima [Video]

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Sigur Rós long had an otherworldly image for English audiences, in part because of their near-mystical compositions and almost elfin vocals, and further because of their sometimes notoriously awkward press interviews. The 2007 DVD release Heima grounds the band as human beings about as much as any tour film ever, while still highlighting their extraordinary music. At heart a performance documentary following the group's 2006 Islandstur, the film sees the foursome and various backing musicians traversing Iceland's smallest and largest villages, putting on free, unannounced shows for anyone in earshot. Performances range from full-blown rock concerts in front of thousands in Reykjavik, to a lonely, acoustic protest of industrial damming in remote highlands. Along the way, they unleash their powerful, melodic tunes in abandoned fish factories, small churches, villager's homes, and many a field. Though the Amiina String Quartet is their primary backing, they're joined by a brass marching band on "Se Lest" that makes its way through a village and onto the small stage, and "A Ferd til Breidarfjardar 1922" sees them joined hauntingly by rhyming chanter Steindor Anderson. The performances are all compelling in their own right and recorded professionally to the point where many match their album counterparts. The film is smart to open with a stunning rendition of "Glosoli," with all of its crunching, glitchy edges a fine companion to the moody shadows on the stage's screen and the intercut footage of Iceland's natural beauty. This natural scenery, from mountains to glaciers and raging streams and waterfalls to lush, green pastures and pitch black sand beaches, seems to be one half of the equation in understanding the epic side of the music of Sigur Rós. Their more reflective, space-conscious side is reflected in the faces of their audience. Extreme close-ups of villagers young and old, in the audience, and making their way across the land to see the band, show the spirit of Iceland and help to express the group's genesis. Interview segments with all four bandmembers and Amiina are interspersed throughout, and in these we see their appreciation for their homeland, understand their weariness about the music industry, and gain insight into why they make such studied, introspective music. Heima is mostly quite stunning visually, with beautiful nature photography, atmospheric performance footage, and pensive editing. Some viewers might feel the film loses momentum as it nears it end, with a slightly disappointing rendition of "Hoppipolla" that lacks spatial dynamics and the jammy, meandering "Popplagio" seemingly going on forever, but Heima is glorious warts and all in its depiction of the heart and soul of Sigur Rós. The film is essential viewing for Sigur Rós fans. Casual fans will probably be awed and interested as well. Heima absolutely defines Sigur Rós.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Title/Composer Performer Time
blue highlight denotes track pick