Preview: Sigur Ros, Inni

Sigur Ros present INNI a new concert film. Picture: Rob Hardy
Sigur Ros present INNI a new concert film. Picture: Rob Hardy
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THERE’S a current vogue for concert films by more artfully inclined live acts to be premiered in a location which befits the original performance

In the case of Inni, however, a film of what might be the last performances ever by epic Icelandic post-rock outfit Sigur Ros, the choice of setting is about more than simply following trends. It would take a very expensive home cinema system to recreate the scale and grandeur of the band’s live show.

Prior to the DVD and CD release of Inni (it means “inside” in Icelandic, reflecting the intended intimacy of the project), there will be concert hall screenings of the film around the world in 5.1 surround sound, the first of which in the UK will be at Edinburgh’s atmospheric Queen’s Hall tomorrow.

That it should be a grand and unmissable spectacle is likely: that it might well be the last chance to come close to the Sigur Ros live experience in such a setting only adds to the appeal.

“That’s how they presented it to me at the time,” says director Vincent Morisset, of the “last shows the band will ever play” angle (Inni was filmed over two nights at London’s Alexandra Palace in November 2008).

“Two of the band members were expecting kids, Jonsi [Birgisson] was starting his solo career, so there was a lot of uncertainty about the band’s future and a sense of urgency to document [their live set]. Who knows what will happen next?”

At the time, the Montreal-based, French-Canadian Morisset had come to prominence for his work with the group Arcade Fire, including their “impressionist documentary” Miroir Noir.

“I met one of Sigur Ros’s managers by accident,” he says, “and we spoke about how intense and crazy it would be to make a film like this. Two months later they called and offered it to me.”

These shows would see Sigur Ros stripped back to their original four-piece line-up, having spent many years touring with a more orchestral arrangement. There were no stipulations about what Morisset should do, more an open brief based on a confidence in what he had done before.

“The live film is kind of a tricky medium,” he says. “I’m not necessarily a fan of them, I prefer to go to a show. But at the same time, with cinema you can bring the spectacular in a way you can’t at a live show. With Inni I wanted to have a foot in reality, so you could see the musicians and capture the details and the effort, but at the same time be in the kind of dream world that only cinema can offer.”

Although he laughs off enquiries as to whether it actually took three years from recording to release to put the film through post-production (it didn’t, he just had an open-ended deadline), there’s no doubt that editing Inni was a painstaking process. It was filmed in HD digital, transferred to 16mm film, then projected and refilmed, often through glass and other objects – the intention being to give the impressionistic look of Morisset’s Arcade Fire work.

This aesthetic also extended to the filming techniques used. “I decided to not rely on big equipment, on cranes and so on,” says the director. “The importance was on the people behind the cameras, people who were not camera operators used to live shows. They were coming from fiction, documentary, art films – all directors of photography, all really talented, but not used to this genre. I wanted to have them, how can you say, out on a wire without a safety net. I wanted to have a fresh look, to have no sense of familiarity that this was just another live film. Really lo-fi, with the importance on the humans.”

Perhaps the biggest shared reference point for band and director, one which comes through in the monochrome finished film, is Neil Young’s score for Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man, devised when Young projected the film on a large screen and just jammed along on guitar. “I just love that sense of spontaneity and invention,” says Morisset, “and the feeling that you’re not quite in control of something as you’re making it.”

DAVID POLLOCK

• Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, tomorrow, followed by live sets by Meursault and Withered Hand; and at Oran Mor, Glasgow, 1 November, with live acts still to be confirmed. The live DVD and CD will be released on 7 November.

www.sigur-ros.co.uk