Got my hands on a review copy of LoC - the dramatised examination of seminal Norwegian black metal band Mayhem - released last week on DVD.
As a lifelong metal fan I’m well acquainted with the story of these church-burning nutjobs (while never having got round to reading the eponymous book) so to finally see a filmic representation of what went down was certainly an eye opener, and not wholly in a positive way.
I thought I’d fire off some thoughts on the movie and its cast/director, what was good about it but mainly where it all went a bit wrong. The former can be summed up in its being visually decent - slickly produced and edited – which is no surprise considering director Jonas Åkerlund’s history of music videos for the likes of Rammstein, Ozzy and Metallica (not to mention J-Lo, Pink and Lady Gaga!).
There were also some genuine lols punctuating the film, derived chiefly from the middle-class suburban situations of these cod-Satanic black metallers, like the little sis peeping and guffawing at the band rehearsing in the family home basement.
Which leads to the first of my major beefs with Lords of Chaos, in list form:
> There wasn’t nearly enough of the actual music in the film. As ridiculous as these guys look and behave, they are – like most practitioners of this genre – highly accomplished musicians, playing at breakneck speeds with technical virtuosity. But all we witness of this is that brief rehearsal, snatches during the party scenes and one gig which was more about the frontman’s blood-spraying antics. Just needed to see more of this elemental aspect, to offset the murderous juvenility that was to follow - give em some credit for something!
> To expand on that, I found myself hating all the main characters, and not caring about what happened to any of them, which for me is a major drawback for any film, novel or play – you have to hold at least some interest in the outcome for a protagonist or the motives behind their actions. We are given no clue as to the motivation driving Varg Vikernes: what ultimately compels him to (spoiler alert!) murder Euronymous in the manner that he did, beyond all the infantile one-upmanship that preceded it.
> Call me po-faced but wantonly destroying centuries-old churches as some kind of marketing campaign for your band is not big or clever in any way. There was scant reference to the impact this destruction had on local communities, on peaceful churchgoers and townsfolk who might have used the church as a meeting place, not to mention historians and visitors to these towns. A thousand-year-old church is of historical value no matter how godless you are.
The film portrays the arsons to be both a pathetic jape yet also kind of ‘cool’, with the perpetrators silhouetted triumphantly before the burning edifice, as per the official poster above. This for me epitomises the narrative confusion at the heart of Lords of Chaos – are we supposed to be laughing at these characters or feeling some kind of warped respect for the ‘metalness’ of their actions? The film never strikes the right note on this, seeming to oscillate awkwardly between both.
> The casting choice of McCauley Culkin's brother Rory as Euronymous – I’m sorry but it’s even harder to take this character seriously when I keep seeing Kevin from Home Alone.
> I just think this story would have been better served as a feature-length documentary, with contemporaneous photos and video footage of the band, and interviews with those who were there and lived to tell the tale. Some of the best documentary flicks - to wit Touching the Void, The Imposter, Diego Maradona (reviewed last week) - would not have worked so effectively as dramatisations, their compelling stories not needing to be exaggerated or exploited to the extent Lords of Chaos does so with its own. Its OTT close-focus violence, corny dialogue and mystifying directorial perspective just lays waste to what was such rich material to work with.
> Finally, it would have been nice to have seen some end credits apprising what happened to the surviving band members, eg. what transpired with the homicidal Varg – where did he end up? Didn’t Mayhem later reprise themselves with a new lineup to greater success? Shouldn't have to google all this.
So unless there’s a sequel in the pipeline Lords of Chaos doesn't really provide a sense of closure, or any sense at all, beyond two hours of mindless violence and vandalism with no real explanations nor nod to its aftermath.
Time to read the book I think. (Movie available to stream on demand at www.lordsofchaosfilm.com )