Arcade Fire were never going to make your standard fly-on-the-wall documentary. While they appear to have fun onstage, music-wise they do take themselves very seriously, and they have every right to do so. They could've been your standard, early-2000s indie band, but instead they have grown and evolved in ways that their contemporaries have failed to. Each of their albums stand alone; similar to, but never the same, as their predecessor. The band are intelligent and experimental, so it was natural that they would want to explore their music's routes in an interesting and thought-provoking manner. Unfortunately, the film does so in a way that puts an invisible barrier between the band and the audience.
Visually, the film is stunning. It's half music documentary, half art video. The transitions and colours are beautiful, and the clever editing to pick out one solo instrument or vocal in a track is unique and exciting. However, there are just so many colours, noises, and jump cuts to take in that it can get jarring. At a couple of points, a song will be just about to reach the chorus or an exciting part of a live performance, and it will suddenly cut away to a completely different piece of footage. The barrier goes up, and the fans are left wondering why they couldn't just watch the whole performance.
The only slight moments of intimacy are found with Régine Chassagne. With the 'Reflektor' album, she had a chance to truly embrace her Haitian heritage. Footage shows her with husband Win Butler experimenting with new sounds and rhythms which ended up forming the backbone of the album. You learn that she spent her younger life feeling invisible, something that she's now shunned with colourful, sparkling costumes onstage and a huge presence in their music. This is the album where she really came into her own and had the strongest influence in the band.
Continue reading: Arcade Fire: The Reflektor Tapes Review
Arctic Fire and Régine Chassagne - Barclaycard Presents British Summer Time Hyde Park - Performances - London, United Kingdom - Thursday 3rd July 2014
Régine Chassagne and Win Butler (Arcade Fire) - Arcade Fire performing in Berlin, Germany - Berlin, Berlin, Germany - Wednesday 18th June 2014