Now that the MFA has been cured of its allergy to all things contemporary, there’s not a venue this side of Iceland more appropriate to host a screening of Sigur Ros’ new live film, Inni. Dozens of thick-framed, enthusiastic eyes peered over $9 glasses of wine at the museum’s new batch of contemporary art to prime themselves for, predictably, one of the best live films of the young decade.
A dozen or so especially wooly patrons lined up in front of the screen immediately before the start of the film for the MFA’s first wool sweater contest. Despite the painfully deliberate Iceland-inspired atmosphere that filled the theater, Inni, unlike Sigur Ros’ last film, Heima, is much more about the band than it is about their heimalands.
In fact, the concert footage was filmed at North London’s Alexandria Palace in 2008, during the band’s final two concerts before their recently terminated hiatus. Directed by Vincent Morisset, the original HD digital film was transferred to 16mm film, re-shot through glass, prisms, etc. for impressionistic effect, and juxtaposed with clips from before the unsung Icelandic heroes exploded all over the international music grid, according to the band’s official site.
The result is a unique Sigur Ros experience that could not exist outside the context of a silver screen (or, as of last Monday, your parents’ old TV from the '80s that’s now sitting on their old nightstand in your apartment). Sigur Ros sought not to recreate their renowned live performance with Inni, but to offer a new way of processing their music altogether.
The film is marked by its extremely close-range shots of the band performing, leaving the idea of an audience largely to the imagination. Often much of the screen is white (or black, or some variation of grey), with only a nose, forehead, or drumstick peeking from the corner to offer proof of a band behind the brilliantly mixed live tracks. The minimalist approach to editing complements the music and illustrates the egoless nature of the band; despite their increasingly grandiose stage attire and generally aloof demeanor, Sigur Ros has managed to maintain the music-first attitude that won over their initial fanbase through a relentless barrage of international success and acclaim.
Each of their five studio albums is represented in the film, most prominently their newest album, 2008’s Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, and their 2002 breakout record, (). The latter suits Inni well; the film and album are similarly spare and visually neutral to simultaneously highlight the music and allow it to exclusively provide color. The film’s final two live tracks, “E-bow” and “Popplagið,” both from (), are similar enough and long enough to make the end of the film drag just slightly. The valiant end of “Popplagið,” however, makes for a more-than-adequate payoff for the droning stretch. A new track, “Lúppulagið,” played over several seconds of blank screen to lead into the credits, provides serene closure immediately following the end of the concert.
Inni opens with a short clip from a 2007 interview in which NPR’s Bryant Park asks the band, “Did you start out playing this kind of music, or did you start out as a more…‘regular’-sounding band, and then did you kind of go here as you experimented?” to which the band replied with nervously suppressed chuckles. The film is Sigur Ros’ less condescending way of explaining to its audience that there is no answer; it continues the band’s unconscious mission to eliminate the boundaries of pop music and, thus, finally accept its place within them.
Inni documents Sigur Ros’s self-realization as a world-famous, seminally influential band. It’s a welcome and immediately satisfying buffer between the band’s brief hiatus and forthcoming new studio album. Most importantly, it gives the legions of diehard Sigur Ros fans around the world a thrilling question to chew on: What’s left for this already-legendary band to accomplish? Perhaps the greatest gift the band could leave its fans is the peace of mind of knowing it will be answered soon enough.
About Mike -- I am a journalism student at Emerson College getting ready to graduate in December. I've done investigative work for the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and covered beats in Bridgewater and Dorchester, but my passion is music. When I'm not blurring the line between obsession and enjoyment while listening to Pavement or Bruce Springsteen, I'm punching walls over the Celtics. Twitter: @mikeflanagan2.
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