Hot Topic: Metalhead

It’s not often that heavy metal makes its way to the big screen in any significant way, but last year saw an Icelandic drama, called simply Metalhead (or Málmhaus in Icelandic), doing the rounds at film festivals around the world. Now the film, from acclaimed Icelandic director Ragnar Bragason, is now available to watch on demand online.

Metalhead tells the story of Hera, a young woman growing up on her family’s cattle farm in the shadow of the tragedy that took her metal-loving older brother’s life. While Hera’s parents quietly deal with their grief, their daughter begins rocking his old leather jacket and raising a lot of eyebrows in the local community with her home-recorded black metal demos.

Having started his filmmaking career in the late 90s, self-professed metalhead Ragnar says that the desire to make a film about metal had been a long time coming.

“I grew up listening to metal music, so I always wanted to do something that would incorporate metal in a serious way,” he says. “I got The Number Of The Beast when I was, like, 11, and there was no turning back after that. I was hooked!” he laughs.

Despite the striking visual of Hera in corpsepaint used for the film’s poster, and the numerous allusions to burning churches and other rebellious antics, the director explains that he was keen to portray her character as sensitively as possible and not as a cartoonish stereotype.

“I’m not a comic filmmaker,” he says. “I didn’t want to make Spinal Tap. I think that, for everybody who gets into metal at some point in their life, there’s something in it that speaks to us in some way. So I don’t want to ridicule it.”

With all this, in addition to a soundtrack featuring classic songs like Judas Priest’s Victim Of Changes and Megadeth’s Symphony Of Destruction, Metalhead promises to be the film that finally gets it right when it comes to the portrayal of metal fans in popular culture. So far, Ragnar says his film has been getting the reception he’d hoped for.

“I still get a lot of emails from metal fans describing how much it resonated with them,” he says. “Of course, some people think it portrays that you need to have some kind of problem to listen to metal, that you need to be an outsider. But it’s an outsider’s music,” he adds, thoughtfully. “When you listen to it, you feel you’re a bit different from the rest of the world.”/o:p