AS BOTH A MUSICIAN and a music fan, I take pride in scrutinizing the portrayal of musicians and music in film. Is that live band made up of people who know how to play the instruments they're holding, or are they just extras who were handed props and told to "rock?" Do the art director and costume designer know anything about metal and its aesthetic, or did they just research it on Wikipedia?
In the Icelandic film Metalhead, writer/director Ragnar Bragason proves he's a fan of heavy tunes. The soundtrack includes solid music from the likes of Savatage, Megadeth, Riot, and the obscure late '70s Canadian act Teaze, while the thought and detail put into the metal band shirts worn by Hera (Thora Bjorg Helga)—not to mention the posters plastering her walls and her Kerrang! magazines—are spot-on perfect. Plus, the use of the Judas Priest song "Victim of Changes" as the backbone of the film is as apt a choice as any to match the main character's struggle.
When it comes to plot and character development, Metalhead doesn't stray too far from standard archetypes: After witnessing the tragic death of her brother, Hera finds solace in his heavy metal. Much to the dismay of her disaffected father, overly affected mother, and the small farming community she lives in, she dives deep into the lifestyle until she reaches the dark recesses of the bleakest of subgenres... black metal. Misunderstood and criticized, she struggles between what is expected of her and the steely path of heavy metal she holds dear.
While Metalhead might not crack any molds when it comes to storytelling, its virtues lie elsewhere: It's shot beautifully in the Icelandic countryside, it's superbly acted, and it has moments of both tragedy and humor. Maybe most importantly, though, it's "true" enough to satisfy even the most kvlt of headbangers.