Space. It’s something that Iceland has in abundance. In a country with only 300, 000 inhabitants and 3 people per square kilometre finding other creative types could be something fo a challenge. Luckily for us the members of Sigur Ros did indeed stumble upon each other on the frozen tundra. After a hectic year of touring abroad the band returns to their Heima, their home, to rediscover and reclaim some of this ‘space’ for their own. Bringing along long time collaborators, Amiina, they travel around the island staging impromptu and free concerts in unexpected and unique locations.
The Iceland that unfolds before us has many faces, but all of them a fierce beauty. Iceland is a land that seems to be slowly fading. Shells of houses melt into the land, grass takes over, thatch giving way to field. The decaying remains are fading memories with only time and nature to witness their demise.
This is the backdrop for many of the band’s performances. In one memorable scene the group visit a village perched on the edge of a glassy sea. Once a home to a bustling fishing trade, all that remains now are two inhabitants and endless empty skies. Rotting fish heads swing from skeletal houses, the husk of a ship perches on the shore, rust giving way to dust, and behind it sits the old factory, silent and disused. Sigur Ros music is matched perfectly to the nature and long gone industry of Iceland. Ethereal and heavy all at once. They make their way across Iceland, playing shows and meeting local oddities (such as the man who constructs an organ out of shale found on a mountainside.) And all the while Nature looks on.
And what a nature it is. Glaciers that groan as they inch their way across the land, soaring mountains, waterfalls hidden behind the mists and barren grasslands dominate the screen. A constant that existed long before humans came to the island and one that will exist long after. But even the permanence of nature is not assured. The band treks out to one of the biggest grasslands in the world, which was still being built at the time of filming but has now been operational since 2009. Joining a group of protesters at the site they perform a haunting acoustic set. The wind drops and everything is silent except for the sound of their music drifting across the land.
But if there is one thing that does remain throughout this film it’s the feeling of community that arises not only from creating music but the act of performing to an audience itself that has gathered together to witness it. Space, the band argues, is what is needed to have closeness. At each small town they visit entire communities congregate to watch the band. From grandmothers to babies every generation is present. For music is something that joins us and brings us together and that is something Sigur Ros want to foster. As singer Jonsi says ‘People come for the gathering as much as liking the music and I think that’s nice.’ For them its not important so much that people are fans of the music, but rather that the music brings them together.
And if this all seems a bit too warm and fuzzy for you then even at its simplest Heima is beautifully shot, turning Iceland into a visual feast. The shots are as complex, striking and layered as the songs themselves, that wend their way throughout the film. The music and the images complement each other perfectly and create a peaceful nostalgia in the audience for a place of which they hold no knowledge. The perfect example of this is the opening sequence where the camera flies over the Iceland landscape as rivers, lakes, waterfalls and waves all flow in reverse as Jonsi’s falsetto rises over the images. Like a giant intake of breath before the ensuing beautiful exhalation, the result is truly magical.
So sit down, relax, grab a friend, whether they be an avid fan, someone new to the music or just someone caught up in the busy pace of life who could benefit from a little bit of space.