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Published on Sep 5, 2013
Acclaimed Icelandic filmmaker Ragnar Bragason (Children, Parents) directs this darkly comic drama about a grief-stricken young woman who adopts the persona — and decibel-blasting predilections — of her deceased brother. There are some things you never get used to. That's certainly the case for Hera, the heroine of Ragnar Bragason's Metalhead. As a young girl she witnessed the accidental death of her brother, Baldur, a long-haired heavy-metal devotee. She promptly remade herself in his image — wearing his clothes, and listening to and playing music at earshredding volumes — as an expression of her grief, her anger, and a reminder to her parents that they haven't really dealt with their loss. Still, as the end of high school and the arrival of adulthood looms, her acts of rebellion no longer satisfy her the way they once did, and Hera begins to act out on a larger, more destructive scale.
Told with compassion and insight, Metalhead never condescends to its confused, angry heroine, nor does it glibly justify her actions. (Bragason is very aware of how adolescence isn't exactly the most balanced period in our lives.) All Hera has to call her own are her emotions and her right to reject things. When her parents show understanding (or don't respond at all) it only exacerbates her situation. But leaving isn't an option — that would be like turning her back on Baldur.
Like the ghostlike sounds that creep into Hera's metal recordings, her grief is almost supernatural, a force of nature. One could say something similar about lead actress Thorbjörg Helga Dýrfjörd, who dives fearlessly into the tempest of emotions. She and Bragason are aided by a strong veteran cast, including Ingvar E. Sigurdsson (Angels of the Universe, Jar City).
Tough, clear-eyed and compassionate, Metalhead is a touching film about a tortured soul who hasn't been — and may never be — able to let herself off the hook.