Grainy Day: Sigur Rós in concert on film

Published at the Toronto Standard

INNI, the new Sigur Rós concert film, preserves the myth levied at the esoteric Icelandic band: the immense seriousness of every single thing they do.

The band members do attempt to have fun with their image—“We’re a very serious heavy metal band and we worship the devil,” is one of only, like, five, actual speaking lines—but being all deadpan-ish about it and then going off to ride bikes instead turns the viewer into a tongue-tied dummy. Like, “Wait, so… I don’t get it.” Though, in some twisty way, that’s probably the intent.

Basically, if you think INNI will uncover Sigur Rós’ meticulous methodology, dreamed-up Hopelandic lexicon, or even clarify how to pronounce front man Jónsi Birgisson’s name, disappointment will be met.

But if you geek out on hyperbolic imagery and music or just really pretty, heartfelt things, there’s a lot of intent to appreciate here from director Vincent Morisset (who also did Arcade Fire’s Miroir noir). INNI parallels and plays into the band’s amorphous nature, evading attempts at definition (mocking this, in fact) and focusing on the music instead.

What Morisset has crafted is a personal, loving portrait of Sigur Rós’ double-header at London’s Alexandra Palace in 2008. It is 75 minutes of crepuscular, monochromatic, dinged footage, all half-light and contrasts, gray scale and shuddering pixels; there are lots of loud, bleached out shots and dimmed, lonely, long views of the band on stage. Softened, prismatic light patterns Jónsi’s face as he sings in his play-tongue, with only the immense feeling in his falsetto conveying meaning.

Along with being, probably unintentionally, very 2011 lo-fi in an Instagram-y, Lana Del Ray kind of way, the effect is quite beautiful because it preserves the band’s sonic aura. Shadows and obscurities deepen the listening experience, turning placid moments fervent and lamentations downright devastating. It is about nothing more.

INNI plays until Nov. 3 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

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