Ragnar Bragason’s ‘Metalhead’ film on demand

‘Metalhead’ a film by Ragnar Bragason is ultimately a pure Icelandic wonder with a unforeseen paralleled dimension whence compared to the overrated amount of metal films being recently released, be it in a storytelling or documentary structural vein, ‘Metalhead’ sinfully sustains the viewer’s breath throughout an interesting devilish plot and consistent storyline.

Many may mistakenly presume in advance that ‘Metalhead’ – mostly due to the poster presentation – is merely another Norwegian mass-production praising the infamous black metal scene, which contradictorily does not deserve a favoring liking considering the 90’s era was populated by murder, vandalism and childish attempts to submit the lesser educated into a satanized state of mind, and behaviour which soon was condemned by the legal courts of such country. Truth be told, the Satan stigmatization and worship that once reigned in Norway, left many of their cultural richness reduced to ashes, something not even the Nazi empire would even ponder to conspire. In my estimation, that is.

Although the poster quickly made us think of Norwegian black metal, especially with the use of the traditional facial makeup, this Icelandic production is one of the very few to see the darker corners of a theater, as Iceland‘s films are often rare but rich in quality, opposing quantity. Even fewer are those that pond onto the United States screens, usually at film festivals such as Heartland Film Festival, in Indianapolis. There are four films that gracefully found their way to festivals, the titles ‘Nói Albínói’, ‘The Seagull’s Daughter’, ‘Of Horses And Men’, and lately this thrilling pearl, ‘Metalhead’.

All of which encrusted on a unique manner, rough diamonds without the bloodthirsty need for cinematography special effects, other than to remain quite organic and humanized in their core essence, those four films with depressive contours that are undeniably waved and characterized by their isolated origins, Scandinavian forsooth, occasionally provide the viewers with some dark humored laughter. Ragnar Bragason’s ‘Metalhead’ is no exception, as the film possesses an uncanny equilibrium between dark humour and depressive moods.

‘Metalhead’ portraits the melodramatic contours of Hera’s (Thorbjorg Helga Thorgilsdotti) life, after she witnessed the brutal death of her brother during a farm accident. After his death, she seeks refuge in the only thing that for her ever made connection between her and him, the metal music. Fast forward several years later and she is found in a black leather jacket, carrying a walkman with tapes from her dead brother, that during such time became also her favorites. Frequently, Hera feels the urge to pack her things and move from her small village toward the urban empires she is so eager to explore, nevertheless, she never gathers enough courage to take the step forward and actually relocate herself. Instead of leaving all that is known by her behind, she remains living at her parent’s house, listening to metal music quite often and sometimes in pure periods of obsessive behaviour however neglecting life’s responsibilities and failing to fulfill any personal ambitions. As an angry teenager, she revolves her life around alcohol and stealing the neighbor’s trucks to cause havoc as a nuisance of herself.

Unaware of the future, Hera sees herself hopeless and lost, this until she is introduced to her local pastor and completely fall in the grace of her heart, him as a metalhead as well, and her enamoured and relentless desire to conquer his heart, wrongly sets the church on fire on an attempt to mimic the Norwegian and Swedish black metal scene circa of the earlier 90’s. Due to such events, Hera is left with one single option; either to slow down and live as a “normal” person, or to perish under her own demise.

Most of the movie captures the life of Hera and her adventures journey through her passionate metal music world, besides being the main focus of attention, her parents’, Karl (Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson) and Droplaug (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir) story also plays an important time throughout the plot. They fight constantly to overcome their loss in a journey to heal their wounds and fill the void. The approach to their suffering is architected in a very intelligent and sensitive manner, without the overwhelming drama that often is brought into such plots in a tireless and melodramatic, epic manner, without approaching ridiculousness nor engaging into needless tragic events in order to somehow enrich the story.

The entire story evolves at a mid-paced, yet thoughtful and emotional manner, without feeling forced nor restrained somehow. It grows with an organizing strength of its own, as Hera occasionally cries in certain moments as if she was calling for help, yet speechless and emotionless to her surroundings.

The performance laid behind the actors remains quite natural and heartbreaking, accompanied by the marvelous Icelandic landscapes, gelid waterfalls, majestic mountains and endless fields of grass, an uncanny beauty gracefully captured through the lens of its director.

The movie contains a rich soundtrack, which includes passages from Megadeth, Judas Priest, and Savatage just to name a few.

‘Metalhead’ is definitely a movie that embraces the human side of life, dramatic forsooth, nevertheless quite deep in perspective that should not be dismissed due to its emotional cutting-edge, on the contrary, even thus many documentaries have held the same title throughout the years, it is quite refreshing to view a piece that stands out of the norm, and gently, embraces us through a painful journey of emotional despair.

7 Comments

  • This is a really good movie, and I try to get all of my american friends to watch it. I must protest your comparison of black metal culture and nazism. If you were not aware, the nazis did indeed destroy priceless and irreplaceable art and artifacts in Hitler’s desire to own it all himself. The burning of a few churches, while despicable, does not compare. This is a good review, but I also am not sure where you get some of your descriptions. Hera did not “amorously and relentlessly desire to conquer” the pastor’s heart. She finally opened up to someone after years of being emotionally isolated to her music, felt an attraction to him, and was rejected (just once, not relentlessly) which sent her into a rage. While I don’t necessarily agree with your interpretation of the movie’s story or message, the basic bones are there, and I’m appreciative of you getting information about it out there. Thanks for this.

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