In August of 2010, French filmmaker Vincent Moon teamed up with the Danish post-rock band Efterklang for a 50 minute documentary combining art, cinema, and, of course, music. Shot in just four days off the coast of Denmark, An Island does a remarkable job of capturing seemingly off-the-cuff interpretations of songs from Efterklang’s latest album Magic Chairs.
Moon has been a pioneer of sorts in terms of blending cinema and music. My first introduction to his work was A Skin, A Night, a brief documentary about The National. An Island focuses much less on Erterklang the band and much more on the music they create together. Throughout the film the band puts on various performances in a wide range of venues from a secluded barn all the way to a high school auditorium.
The film begins with Efterklang creating music from objects around them including but not limited to skids, piping, and raindrops. The film then moves forward with more traditional instrumentation as the band sits in the back of a pickup truck performing the song, “Raincoats,” which takes on an entirely different feel from the album version. The most notable performance in the movie takes place at an elementary school gymnasium. Efterklang, with the help of a gym full of children, play through “Full Moon,” in what is easily the strongest song in the movie.
As a filmmaker, Vincent Moon captures his images in a way that makes the viewer feel as if they’re there. At times this style can be incredibly frustrating; there are no elaborate angles or multiple views, what you see on the screen is only what Moon’s single camera captures. Moon’s greatest strengths lay in his artful use of saturated colors throughout the film; each scene is vibrant and attention grabbing. Most of Moon’s camera shots have a very dark and vivid feel to them. It is this aspect of the film that makes An Island stand out from other documentaries and Vincent Moon stand out from other directors.
The 50 minutes of An Island feel less like a documentary and more like a visual companion to Efterklang’s album, Magic Chairs. The small island of Als and the people who live there, to whom Moon dedicates the film to, are what help make this documentary truly special. Vincent Moon is slowly solidifying his place at the top of independent filmmakers.