Bragason, Ragnar (Director)
Released: 2013, n/a
There has been quite a bit of buzz about this film since it's release in 2013. Unfortunately because the film is an indent production, distribution problems have hindered more people being able to see this. As of time of writing this review in early 2015 the movie is still not available on DVD in North America. I was fortunate enough to see it in the theatre, also early in 2015.
METAL HEAD was released in 2013 in Iceland and since then has been building some buzz on the independent film circuit and some controversy in Metal circles. The film is essentially a coming of age drama with many of the trappings/set dressings of a metal film. A brief synopsis (without spoilers) is that in the late 1980’s a young girl, living with her family on a farm in rural Iceland, witnesses the gruesome, accidental death of her older brother who is a Metal head. Flash forward almost a decade and we see the young girl now in her late teens trying to deal with the grief of her loss. She is angry at everyone and everything, including God and the church for letting this happen, which ostracizes her in small religious community. Over time, she has found solace in her brothers Heavy Metal lifestyle and has become a metalhead herself. The bulk of the film deals with coming to terms with the tragedy and her role in society.
Well shot and edited, the film had some gorgeous scenery and a very decent soundtrack as well. Based on the film poster and movie trailer and time and the setting, I thought the soundtrack would be strictly Black Metal, but it wasn’t. I feel the person who designed the sound/picked the songs, is an older Metalhead who knows his or her history. There were quite a few gems that lyrically fit perfectly with the corresponding scenes for example; Savatage-Strange Wings and Lizzy Borden-Me Against The World.
I’m not a film critic by any means but I enjoyed it, I thought it was well-paced, perhaps a bit slow, and well acted. It won many awards at the Icelandic national film awards that year. The dialogue was decent and I don’t mind reading sub-titles. The overall tone was dark and depressive with a very few moments of comic relief and the subject matter was about tragedy, loss, grief, rebellion and acceptance. My interest in the movie was strictly for the Metal, if a similar movie with the same plot had come out about a girl who liked hip-hop or something, I would not have bothered watched it as I usually watch action/horror films.
Some of the aforementioned controversy has somewhat predictably come from Metal fans themselves, with some negative commentary suggesting that it was an inaccurate portrayal of Heavy Metal and metalheads. I’ll admit the movie was not perfect in that regard but stereotypes exist for a reason and some of the stereotypes that existed in the movie were quite accurate. The ending was not what I expected, which on one hand was a good thing that it was not predictable, however, in this case, I would have preferred the more predictable ending.
It was only afterwards that I sat back and had a more critical/analytical perspective about how the writer/director treated Heavy Metal as a cultural phenomena. Phenomena is the correct term; did you know there are over 100 Metal bands in Iceland? (Pop: 325, 666) This means the country has one the highest densities of heavy metal bands per capita in the world! It only makes sense that this film could happen in Iceland. I think if it was set in downtown Detroit or LA it would not have had the same impact.
METAL HEAD was very enjoyable. I saw it by myself in a theater (with only three other patrons in attendance) and I fully embraced the story and characters even though as a male in his 40’s living in a city of 1 million, I have little emotional connection to the angst of a teenage girl living on a farm in a tiny country. However, it is the love of Metal that unites us all and that is why I loved METAL HEAD.