Most people dream of making it big, but don’t have the courage to get there. They refuse to get back up when they stumble along the way. In Jukka Vidgren and Juuso Laatio’s Finnish comedy Heavy Trip, Turo is the lead vocalist for a heavy metal band who has not gotten a gig for the last twelve years. When a promoter passes by their small town, he tries to get over his fear of performing in front of a large crowd and does whatever it takes to launch their career at a popular music festival in Norway.
The first act of the film seems all too familiar to the audience: a band wants to be successful in the music industry, Turo lies to his crush to impress her, and the townspeople make fun of guys with long hair. Laatio and Vidgren portrays the metal band as underdogs and outcasts in their small town, and you can tell that they will eventually achieve their goal of playing at the festival. At first glance, the film features dominant cinema techniques that make it easier for the audience to follow the plot. Boy, were we wrong to think that Heavy Trip would be similar to Hollywood films! By the time the third act rolls in, one of the main characters suddenly die, the rest of the band digs out his coffin from the ground, and a mental patient is kidnapped from his ward. The absurdity of the scenes reminds us of the 2012 French film Holy Motors, where we asked ourselves, “What’s going on in the film?” Scenes come out of nowhere, such as when the Swedish authorities attacked an unsuspecting bachelor party group in ridiculous outfits. Yet, rather than the confusion and bewilderment you might feel while watching Holy Motors, you can’t help but laugh at the antics of the band just to get to the festival. You may not understand the events that unfold in the film, similar to how incomprehensible heavy metal songs may seem to most people. Precisely, the directors are asking you to just watch the scenes like how you would just listen to a heavy metal song without trying to interpret the lyrics.
Aside from the crazy antics, what made the film interesting is how the personalities of the band members and the town’s attitude towards them are different from what you might expect. Heavy metal is often related to machismo, and members are expected to talk about sex, drugs, and Satan. People see them as aggressive and powerful because of the energy they exude. However, the members in the film are underdogs, shy towards their crushes, and mistreated by other townspeople. They insult Turo by saying that he is a homo, contrary to the usual machismo image of heavy metal. In this case, we see a glimpse of reality, a peek into the candid lives of a heavy metal band. It all makes sense, though, because as the film ends, you cannot help but root for these underdogs who went through an insane ordeal just to achieve their dream.