a film included in the go digital special edition
dean deblois’s shooting diary of go quiet
reykjavík, iceland. new years eve, december 2009.
the night went really well. we went over to jónsi and alex’s flat around 6pm, after they’d returned from the video shoot in the countryside. jónsi was still in full make-up and costume so he kept it for the night. we were only planning to light the room for the party, but instead, i was whisked off to jónsi’s parents’ house for a traditional family new year’s eve with the entire birgisson clan. really fun and sweet — kids performing rehearsed songs, great food, fireworks in the back yard, and really friendly people. i caught a cab back to jónsi’s flat as he and alex stayed behind to watch the traditional new year’s eve comedy special with the family. by the time i met up with alan (who’d stayed behind to set up lights) the city was lit up like baghdad. it sounded like a war zone. we hauled the cameras up to the big church to shoot the fireworks and revelry — which went on non-stop for more than an hour.
we returned to find jónsi and alex back at their flat and the first few people trickling in. within an hour or so, the party was in full swing, with a steady stream of people coming and going. crazy chris doyle led the charge onto the dance floor, dressed like a smurf with a voodoo doll-adorned bike helmet and blue wellies. the man is certifiably insane — i love it! he dragged everybody up… and before long, the room was alive and kicking. jónsi wanted to keep the lighting subdued so as not to spoil the mood, but within a short amount of time, everyone was too drunk to notice that we’d dialed up the dimmers to enable shooting. in the end, we got some good stuff. slightly dark, but fun and full of energy. all shot at 50 frames, mild slow motion. after the crazy woman upstairs had yet another meltdown at around 4am, we ended the party, left the cameras behind and hit the clubs for a few more drinks.
reykjavík, iceland. new years day, january 2010.
as of earlier today, jónsi and alex are planning to record all nine songs — as an alternate version of the album. they’d like to film them in album order, beginning with waking up in the aftermath of the party (which looks great — suitably trashed) and going from there. jónsi recognizes the potential for visual monotonous, so he’s open to discussing alternative locations, so long as they can record the performances. he just wants to keep everything low key and relaxed, without a bunch of people around. he asked that the shoot be alan and i only, and that the gaffer and camera assistant leave once the set-up is done. no problem there.
reykjavík, iceland. january 2nd 2010.
after having collected footage of fireworks, revelers and jónsi’s new year’s eve party, we resumed shooting on the morning of the 2nd, having alotted for lost sleep and hangovers. our little crew arrived at jónsi and alex’s flat at about ten and began setting lights for the first song. the concept was simple: it’s new year’s day in reykjavík, and jónsi awakens to a trashed house in the wake of his party. he avoids cleaning up and instead procrastinates by playing songs that reflect the night before, the bittersweetness of new year, and the melancholy of a year gone by.
we decided to give ourselves the challenge of shooting everything without any recording equipment visible — while actually recording the takes. and we managed it with a few crafty tricks.
go do was the first song we shot and recorded, on a ukelele with a missing string in jónsi and alex’s living room. after emerging from his bedroom, looking a bit hungover, jónsi starts to clean up, then spots his uke on a chair by his bird costume. confetti is strewn everywhere. he sets the glasses he collected back down and picks up the uke instead, strumming it a few times before starting into the melody. it’s a happy but mellow rendition, really beautiful. i had first planned to shoot most of the songs with an unbolted, handheld feel, but the songs were generally quieter and calmer, so it didn’t feel appropriate. the camera is always moving, but in pace with the music.
next up was animal arithmetic at the piano. we shot most everything on long lenses with diopters, so the depth is super shallow. some great shots here. this song is meant to be mixed with footage of people dancing in slow-motion in jónsi’s living room. among the notable dancers are alex, jónsi, crazy chris doyle, siggi, and sigurrós herself.
around us was performed as darkness fell in the apt., sometime after 3:30 or so. we moved the piano into the middle of the room and managed to get some beautiful lens distortions using candles and hyper shallow focus. its warm, quiet feel should cut really well with the fireworks and revelers we got on new years eve.
kolniður was performed in the reflections of small antique mirrors that jónsi and alex had around. this was jónsi’s idea and it worked out really well. we only did it twice so the coverage is limited, but it doesn’t feel like it should be cutty.
after we finished the two takes, we wrapped for the day, sometime around midnight, and jónsi, alex, and i headed over to kjartan and maría’s to celebrate his birthday. it of course went late, but it was great to them. helgi from the horny brasstards was there too.
reykjavík, iceland. january 3rd 2010.
sunday started with another daylight song (fleeting light meant we had to proiritize). grow till tall was performed in the kitchen. jónsi fills a glass of water and goes to the window, bypassing the mess. he stares out at the quiet streets, then notices a little keyboard sampler, stowed among the glasses and confetti on the kitchen table. he picks it up. records a ‘you….’ sample and sings the song without any other instruments, switching the sampler off for the last verse. this one’s really beautiful with street noise and lots of interesting visual detail to take in, including a great photo of jónsi as a baby with his mom.
tornado was a tough one for the boys to record, so we left them alone to do it and went to grab lunch. a few hours later, they had it and we filmed jónsi performing it to playback while circling the piano on dolly and track. some of my very favorite footage in this section. they had to blast the playback through a bad lead and crackly speakers so i’m sure the crazy lady upstairs was going out of her head. but surprisingly, despite the looming anxiety, she didn’t stomp or shout or do anything beyond threatening alex through text messages.
after the song, jónsi grabs his jacket and heads out, abandoning the trashed apartment.
hengilás was performed in the antique/junk shop where we filmed hildur and edda for heima. jónsi wanders the empty streets to the steps of the shop. he goes inside and wanders down aisles of junk, passing an old organ and finally a harmonium. he sits at it, pulls out a crumpled lyric sheet, and plays a song. beautiful spot for it. afterward, he closes it up and leaves.
sinking friendships was filmed under late sunday night time constraints, having moved from the junk shop to their new house. after trying a few ideas at lighting the bare upper floor recording space, we ultimately went with a raw, unrefined look under the existing bare strung bulbs — my personal favorite of the options. we ran track along the length of the room and placed the celeste at the far end. we opened and closed the song with jónsi walking in and then out in a wide 18mm tracking shot. the celeste was really interesting to shoot, with all of its beautiful moving bits.
boy lilikoi was the last song we filmed, somewhere around midnight to 2 am on monday morning. we kept it simple: jónsi on a red stool and guitar in an interesting corner of their upstairs recording space at the new house. a few passes, some flares and diopters later, and we were done.
dean deblois, jan 2010