Directed by Ari Alexander Ergis Magnússon,
By Alyce Wilson
Screaming Masterpiece (Gargandi Snilld), a documentary by Ari Alexander Ergis Magnússon, examines the musical scene of Iceland. This film is almost more of a freewheeling festival than a documentary, as the filmmakers chose to let the music and the musicians speak for themselves.
The film opens with a sweeping aerial shot across the windswept, icy Icelandic landscape, as the head pagan of Iceland explains how integral music is to the country. This sequence is scored with sweeping music by one of the best known Icelandic bands, Sigur Rós. The film dissolves to a shot of the band performing on stage.
The movie sweeps forward from one performance to another, from one place to another, as musicians talk about Icelandic music. Portions of a 1981 documentary on the Icelandic music scene are edited in, including performances by a very young Björk.
The film includes a recent interview with and concert performance by Björk, where she talks about her musical goals and aspirations and how they apply to Icelandic music.
According to the musicians interviewed for this documentary, Iceland is such a small country that it functions like one community. In one scene, the president of Iceland throws a house party with a young band providing the music! Can you imagine President Bush doing that?
The reason Icelandic music is so unique, more than one musician suggests, is because they feel that nobody is paying attention to them anyway, so they just make music the way they want. The musicians often know and support each other, frequently jumping from group to group or performing in several bands at once.
In a country of only 300,000 people, one-third the size of New York City, an astounding number of bands, musical groups and musicians flourish. Clearly, like the head pagan said, music is fundamental to Icelandic culture.
The film sweeps the viewer along with the force of the music, lots of beautiful landscape shots and some creative editing techniques, using dissolves and also the motif of an animated raven. Truly, a screaming masterpiece.