Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

Metalhead

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Metalhead is an Icelandic film about grief and loss. It opens with a farming accident that will forever alter the life of a family and the small rural community in which they live. The film focuses on Hera (Thora Bjorg Helga) who witnesses the tragedy. The loss of her older brother causes her to undergo a transformation not for the better. She burns all her clothes. She obsesses over her brother’s passion for heavy metal. She is filled with anger and turns to alcohol to try and numb the pain. She lashes out at people who love her and want to help. Most people are patient with her because they know what the family has endured.

The majority of the film explores the downward spiral of grief. Hera’s parents are also deeply effected by the tragedy. Her mother often stares off into space and loses track of what she is doing. Her father becomes hardened. He focuses on his work. He makes sure to keep up with life’s everyday duties, but he has lost his passion for life. Hera’s parents remained married. They remain active in the church and in the community, but their love for one another has all but disappeared. They do what they have to do because they don’t know what else to do.

Hera is an adolescent. She is still searching for an identity. She rebels. This is accepted at first, but after Hera becomes an adult the community begins to grow tired of her tirades. She sinks deeper and deeper into her grief. She feels misunderstood until one day a new priest (Sveinn Olafur Gunnarsson) arrives in town. He is not like the one’s they have had in the past. He is young and single. He is more progressive and Hera discovers he has a love for heavy metal. He tries to help out but his help is misinterpreted by Hera and she leaves for good.

As Hera sits alone in the silence of the cold snow covered country, she finds herself. She undergoes a second transformation, but this time she is changed for the better. She returns to town and begins to try to live a normal life. She eventually settles for being herself, while not allowing grief to overtake her.

The film is somewhat predictable. It is the age old story of someone lost but now found. The audience expects this from the beginning, so it is not too big of a distraction. The film also fails to explore the complexities of grief and Hera’s transformation toward the discovery of joy and life. It would have been nice for the film to have taken its depiction of a sensitive and complicated subject to the next level. Even though it falters on these two points, the film is still an interesting and beautiful piece of art that is worthy of praise.

There are many things the film does right. The setting is magnificent. Iceland seems like another age compared to the materialistic and consumer-driven culture in which we live. Many of the scenes involve farm work or sitting around a table. The people are tied to the land. They work and they eat. Meals are a constant theme throughout the movie. At many of the meals there is a disconnect because grief lingers at the table, but in one of the final scenes joy is discovered by all at a great banquet feast. The continual practice of something so ordinary leads to an amazing discovery in the end.

I was amazed at the exploration of community in the film. The town in which the story takes place in an isolated community. There is a city somewhere near and a single bus that connects them to the outside world makes an appearance from time to time. Most people never venture that far. They are committed to their families, farms, and church. When something goes wrong the community must come together to dispense justice. They do so with compassionate hearts. This is a stark contrast to our judicial system that is bound by laws written in books. For this community in Iceland, it is not so much about what the law says, but about the human being that will be forever influenced by what they decide.

Metalhead also reminds us of the importance of being ourselves. Faith is a part of the film because it is a part of the community and the people who live there. Hera’s parents practice their faith for many years even though their hearts are not in it. They are overwhelmed with grief and are simply going through the motions. No one can really blame them, considering what they have been through. Hera rejects faith in her grief, but eventually finds her way back. At first, she is just going through the motions also, but eventually she discovers that she must be honest. In the end, she finds a way to be a part of her family, community, and faith while also being herself. This allows her the freedom to seek joy and live life like she has never lived before.

Metalhead will be available on Video On Demand on April 3rd.

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