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TIFF '13 Review: Metalhead
Icelandic tale of death, coming of age, and Slayer

Alternative cultures can be difficult to find in rural Iceland, or so it seems in Ragnar Bragason’s Metalhead. After her brother tragically dies in a tractor accident, Hera (Þorbjörg Helga Dyrfjörð) adopts his clothing, his taste in music, and his attitude. That means Slayer t-shirts, black leather jackets, and enough loud guitar to really piss off the parents. The only downside is that Hera lives in a tiny community north of Reykjavik, meaning she’s the only metalhead around. She keeps threatening to move to “the city,” but it never happens. Even as a young adult, she stays close to her brother, acting out in increasingly anti-social ways.

The metal in this film is incidental. Hera could just as easily have become a punk, or maybe even a Phish fan (though I’m not sure if Phish has a broad Icelandic fan base). Regardless, Metalhead is less a movie about metal and more about a young woman’s struggle to overcome the death of her brother. Perhaps the most metal thing about the film is a scene of Hera recording her own music, recording on cassette tapes in a barn full of animals, showing how difficult it was to make DIY recordings before computers. As a coming of age film, Metalhead is predictable. Nevertheless, Dyrfjörð’s performance in the lead role is affecting, and Bragason’s screenplay leaves room for well rounded portraits of Hera’s parents, who are struggling with their son’s death in their own way.

Metalhead premiered at the festival last Saturday, but you can catch the last public screening tomorrow at 9:00pm at the Scotiabank Theatre.


Alan Jones writes about film for Toronto Standard. You can follow him on Twitter at @alanjonesxxxv.

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