Iceland - The Heat Is On By Miguel Somsen

in 17th Goteborg International Film Festival

by Miguel Somsen

Icelandic director Ari Alex Magnusson rushed his movie Screaming Masterpiece (Gargandi Snilld) from the editing room directly to the 28 th Göteborg Film Festival for an exclusive jury screening. There had been no time to apply subtitles to the movie, so we had to follow it with a live translation in the room. It seemed quite inappropriate or even difficult for our small audience, but it made perfect sense – a live experience to warm up our chilly morning. A very exciting documentary about the contemporary music scene in Iceland, Screaming Masterpiece ‘s subjects utter lines like, “Music is the ultimate art form,” and “Music goes past the brain and cuts through the heart.”

It helps if you are a music buff. Or if you like the sort of music these modern Icelanders are performing today. Sigur Rós and Björk have taken the world by storm, and there are a few other bands jumping into the bandwagon. That’s where the musicians Múm or Mugison come in – each of them developing a unique taste for melody and folklore. “I was going to work in a chocolate factory when we formed the band,” remembers Múm in the film. The rest is history.

Then there’s the fabulous story of Nilfisk, a teenage rock band from the outskirts of Reykjavik, who were fortunate enough to share dinner with the great American band The Foo Fighters on the eve of their first concert. Nilfisk ended up opening for Dave Grohl’s act with the local audience cheering for them – this lucky, yet unimpressed band. Is this the stuff dreams are made of? Yes, if you plan to go worldwide. But the talent is here, waiting to expand.

You don’t need to go any further. Iceland is a new nation of only sixty years. Although their independence dates as far as the eleven-hundreds, only in the 20 th century did the Danes grant Iceland their independence. Subsequently, these new bands’ members are just short of adolescence too. “So what you have is screaming patriotism with heavy doses of adolescence,” says Björk. “When my generation came along we started to ask ourselves what it meant to be Icelandic and how to be proud of it instead of feeling guilty all the time.”

Guilt has nothing to do with it. One way of coping with the system, as our witnesses report, is of keeping ambitions small so that the pressure will always be bearable. In the same way, this allows bands to be cool and laid-back about everything in life, epecially their music.

Screaming Masterpiece will go further than most of the bands it portrays. It started touring in Göteborg, and will, inevitably, claim the rest of the world soon. Of course “there’s no plan except to enjoy the ride.” One has to start somewhere and it started right here. Now all we need is to get the soundtrack!