Jonas Åkerland (director)
29 March 2019 (released)
26 March 2019
The wonderful world of Heavy Metal has for some time been the subject of scorn and ridicule: the overblown music, the stage shows, the clothes and it can appear closed to the general onlooker. In some respect that is down to the baffling number of sub-genres each having their fair share of hardcore followers.
These in turn can spilt further down, with possession getting tighter and more precious. Taken to absolute extremes there would be scene of one. Sounds bizarre but that isn’t too far from the tragedy that befell the characters in Lords of Chaos a film based on true events that almost defy belief.
Having been screened at the London Film Festival 2018 and Glasgow Film Festival FrightFest 2019 it arrives with a reputation of people being overcome which I saw at FrighFest and at a recent screening in London. Be in do doubts this is an 18 certificate film.
Narrated casually by band leader Euronymus (Rory Culkin) we are taken through an unpleasant story of ego, isolation, self-harm, suicide and murder. The search for the purity of metal - that being Norwegian Black Metal which has a distinct sound and look. This purity leads one follower to ask why Scorpions LPs are for sale in Euronymus’s record shop (subsidised by his parents, it’s fairly obvious from the outset that they all come from fairly middle-class backgrounds) and he himself sneering at paying clients dressed in traditional metal denim waistcoats. The already small Black Metal scene is further reduced as an inner circle is created Euronymus, his band Mayhem and their acolytes. For most it’s just an excuse to drink, have sex and listen to music.
However tragedy strikes and Mayhem need a new bassist and they recruit Varg (Emory Cohen). A power struggle ensues between Mayhem’s band leader Euronymus and bassist Varg who has his own band Burzum about the direction of their project and music and, of course, money. Their dichotomy is they want to remain an enigma in the broad light of publicity, that enables them to earn a living but they differ on how. Euronymus wants to play live, though an ever more implacable Varg sees this as a betrayal of their principles. The pursuit of this musical purity dovetails with their views on race and religion, a purity that leads to the well documented church burnings.
Director Jonas Åkerland (co-written with Dennis Magnusson) has grasped the vicious absurdity of it all delivering a film that hones in on characters and situations that border on the ridiculous. The clean almost sterile colour palette compounds the otherworldliness and sheer strangeness of the whole thing.
Culkin and Cohen are excellent. Culkin has an air of mischievousness about him (despite some of his actions), and that it’s all, well, sort of a laugh, while Cohen is frightening as man gradually slipping out of control, into obsession and into a fantasy world.
A very dark humour pervades the film and there are some laughs and comic situations but these all overridden by sordid, tragic events that are extremely gruelling. This isn’t a horror film as such just contains elements that define the word.