Monday, November 28, 2011

Man on Film: Inni

There is a stark contrast between the previous Sigur Rós film, Heima, and the new one, Inni. Past the obvious differences in the visual palettes of each film, Heima sets the band against the backdrop of Iceland--their home country--while Inni is more intimate, essentially being a concert film. This makes sense, as their titles translate to "home" and "inside," respectively, from Icelandic.

While Heima sets off to contextualize the band with performances all over Iceland in various locales, Inni directs its gaze on the band themselves. This serves the apparent goal of the film. Filmed almost exclusively in close shots of the members of the band, often paring its focus down to shots of just the playing of the instruments or Jónsi's face while singing, Inni definitely brings the audience close to the band. Its grainy, 16mm feel is contrived--literally, in this case, as it was actually produced by filming the original digital stock in 16mm "sometimes through prisms and other found objects" as per their website--but does produce the desired effect of drawing the audience in to the concert experience.

That concert experience is much more the band's experience than the audience's, as the audience a largely removed from the film, which is honestly preferable. Unfortunately, in setting his aim so tightly on the band, director Vincent Morriset (and possibly the band) eschews the grandeur ever-present in Sigur Rós's epic brand of post-rock. The epic scope and the geography that makes itself known in their music are not completely gone, but they are certainly diminished. Perhaps this loss is meant to be supplanted by increased emotional investment, and the interstitial archival footage set between the songs does work toward this end, but the lost element of what worked so spectacularly well in Heima (and really, what works for the band as a whole) is not completely replaced by the heightened kinship.

Having said all that, Inni is a different glimpse at the band. It succeeds in bringing the audience to the stage, enabling them to experience the show vicariously through the band. When viewing Inni in a disappointed light, one does so by comparing it to the inimitable Heima, which may be the best music documentary out there. In a vacuum (or without having seen Heima), Inni is damn fine. Its stark black-and-white palette is engrossing. The light that intermittently bleeds into the frame bends the band into and out of the black, adding an affective expressionistic flair to the film. While the band's performances aren't set against the arresting backdrop of the Icelandic countryside, the filmic presentation of these nine songs is enthralling, even at this scale.

As the film concludes, one cannot help but look forward to 2012, as Inni whets the appetite for new Sigur Rós material tentatively scheduled for a spring release. This feeling is likely the most important thing take from this experience. When it's over, you want more.

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