Screaming Masterpiece (Gargandi snilld) (2005, Director: Ari Alexander Ergis Magnússon): Iceland is a nation of just 300,000 and yet over the past twenty years, it has produced a huge number of brilliant musicians, including such globally-known artists as Björk and Sigur Rós. This film vaguely tries to figure out what makes Iceland so special, but wisely keeps the talking heads to a minimum, instead treating us to lots of performances. This allows us to get an overview of just how diverse the music scene is, with everything from feedback-drenched rock to orchestral to electronic to metal to folk. And yes, even hip-hop. My wife and I are travelling to Iceland in late September for the Reykjavik International Film Festival and I wanted to discover a few more bands to seek out while we’re there. Happily, this documentary has added a few new names to my list (Bang Gang, Múm, Apparat Organ Quartet) as well as reinforcing my love for stuff I’ve already heard (Mugison, Amiina, Singapore Sling, Slowblow, Quarashi, and of course, Björk and Sigur Rós).
There is a bit of historical perspective, tying in some of the very old chants and songs created by Iceland’s first inhabitants, but more interesting to me was footage from Fridrik Thor Fridiksson’s 1982 documentary Rokk í Reykjavík, which showed a very young Björk performing with a band called Tappi Tíkarrass, and documented the popularity of punk rock and the rise of the modern music scene there. I think I’ll need to track that down next. Here she is on the cover of the VHS tape:
Overall, this wasn’t groundbreaking filmmaking, but it did a good job of surveying the scene and giving viewers a taste of what makes Icelandic music so special. Special thanks to Thora Gunnarsdottir from the Icelandic Film Centre for hooking me up with a copy of the film. And check back in the fall for coverage of the Reykjavik International Film Festival, where hopefully we’ll be able to see a number of new Icelandic films. If you think the music scene is good, consider that almost every creative person in Iceland expresses himself in more than one medium. Slowblow’s Dagur Kári Petursson, for instance, also directed Nói albínói (2003) (review). So we’re excited to be spending some time in this creative hotbed, and will have plenty to report, I’m certain.