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Review: Band


- There’s no telling if everything’s true in Álfrún Örnólfsdóttir’s Icelandic doc, but here’s hoping it is

Review: Band

When a band shows up on stage, wriggling as if slightly possessed and singing about “dysfunctionality, dysfunctionality”, it’s impossible not to think about Spinal Tap. But while that group became synonymous with failing spectacularly – and often, at that (and has recently been on everyone’s mind again due to its drummer’s passing) – their love for music also gave people hope. Success was one thing, sure, but you didn’t actually need it in order to perform. As long as you knew how to tread that fine line between stupid and clever, that is.

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The Icelandic doc Band [+see also:
interview: Álfrún Helga Örnólfsdóttir
film profile
– world-premiering at Hot Docs – also feels like a mockumentary, but it’s not. The Post Performance Blues Band exists, heavens be praised, and is currently considering a comeback. That in itself is very surprising, as director (and member) Álfrún Örnólfsdóttir seems to be willing some odd events into existence here, and it’s hard to say whether the band’s weirdness is mocked or celebrated. Perhaps it’s both of those things at once.

Predictably, it’s hilarious. The ladies let loose on stage, delivering something halfway between a proper (if under-attended) gig and performance art. Sometimes it feels like they are working together; sometimes each of them dances to her own tune. There is something inspiring about that, to be honest, about seeing women allowing themselves this kind of freedom: the freedom to be silly, to be paid in beer and to enjoy whatever this kind of setting – and an exceptionally well-behaved audience – has to offer. If that’s failure, it actually looks like fun.

Which is not to say it’s all about belly laughs, as Band can be melancholic. There is a constant, nagging sense of running out of time, missing that one moment you need in order to finally make it. Not just in music, either – Örnólfsdóttir shows her struggles as an actress, the one that people really appreciate yet never hire, and there are scenes of what feels like real loneliness and longing for a connection. They all feel it, so they give it one more year – like many artists before them, probably remembering Nick Cave’s words that a band is a living, breathing thing, and if it doesn’t grow, it dies. Because sometimes you need to grow up and understand that not all dreams tend to come true.

Then again, are dreams really less valid just because there is no recognition or financial gain at the end? Once you get through the pain of rejection and continue to do something because it brings joy, there is something wonderful about it as well. Maybe dreaming in spite of failing isn’t the mistake everyone thinks it is. These ladies deliver a combo of crazy performances and lyrics (“One is about my mum, one about waffles and coffee” is about as accurate a description of their oeuvre as they get), but also of sadness. Which, come to think of it, is exactly what made Spinal Tap a lasting phenomenon instead of a joke. There is similar promise here, because you do want them to go on after the end credits. Here’s hoping it’s not the end for the band. And that they will be hiring soon.

Band was produced by Iceland’s Compass Films.

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