(By now, surely every metalhead knows about the Lords of Chaos movie directed by Jonas Åkerlund, and written by Åkerlund and Dennis Magnusson based on the 1998 book of the same name, focusing on the Norwegian black metal scene of the early ’90s. In the following post, Wil Cifer shares his reactions to the movie — and we welcome your own in the Comments if you’ve seen it.)
I know it’s a vulgar concept, but let’s pretend for a moment that movies are pure entertainment. There are some filmmakers like David Lynch and Lars Von Tier who transcend the fluff of your typical popcorn sellers, but they are the exception to the rule.
If you are looking mindless fun, draped in corpse paint, then your expectations of Lords of Chaos might be reasonable. If you are looking for the definitive history of Norwegian Black Metal, then you might be better off with the 2010 documentary Until the Light Takes Us.
I found this movie to be entertaining due to the sense of nostalgia it gave me, since I was a teenager in Norway in the early ’90s. In the funny how we take life for granted column, while I was aware of this brand of black metal, I still preferred King Diamond. In fact, when I into the city to Helvete, I bought a Melissa picture disc. It was bands like Emperor and Enslaved who would break me into black metal. So while I hold the kind of heavy metal debauchery depicted in the first fifteen minutes of the movie dear, this period of Mayhem / Burzum’s career is more urban legend than substance to me.
My only qualm with the film when taken as a piece of entertainment is that I felt the lead roles should not have been portrayed by American actors who did not even attempt a Norse accent. At least the show Vikings goes that far.
It was only vaguely alluded to in one conversation that the church burnings and shunning of mainstream culture was not about satanism but a rejection of Western culture. Where fans of black metal can breathe a sigh of relief is in that fact that this movie is going to hover in art house cinemas for a few weeks and then fade into (at best) cult status. Not that it’s a reflection on the film itself. Even with black metal as just the window dressing to the drama that unfolds, this is not something they are going to market to even hipster fans of Gaspar Noe.
I would say the film strikes another chord of nostalgia as it reminds me of the 1986 film The River’s Edge, another teenage tale of metal and murder. I think the director was not on either Team Varg or Team Euronymous, so that helped to show sides that some viewers might not have considered. When everything came to a head, I think the point was proven that Euronymous was a sell-out who used everything from the church burnings to Dead’s death to try to look evil, when he was just a poseur.
Speaking of Dead, he was the most interesting character. The supporting cast sparsely highlighted key players like Faust and Blackthorn without really having the chance to show their relationship with either Euronymous or Varg. Granted, the moviemakers were trying to cram a lot into a two-hour film.
While Sky Ferreira was pretty hot as a ’90s heavy metal chick, it seemed that this was an unlikely film for an obligatory love interest. I am all for sex of every flavor, but it almost rivaled what I would expect from the Motley Crue bi-opic. Odd to me, since this brand of black metal seems the least sexually energetic.
I think at the end of the day I was rooting for Varg as he stood for not selling out and going on tour, making music and burning churches, as that undermined his conviction not to be sensationalist. It was also shown that both men served as mirror images for the things they despised at some point in themselves, but Varg became black metal and Euronymous became the things black metal was supposed to be against.
This movie was not out to win any awards, but I would recommend it to fans of black metal, because really, how many movies about metal are there? Much less black metal? If you feel like you can’t go into this movie without being uptight, then smoke a joint or take a Xanax and get laid. It’s just a dumb fun movie I would much rather watch than any of the Fast and Furious sequels.