Lords of Chaos (2018): ‘One Event in a Complex History’ – A Film Review

 

Introduction

On the one hand, Lords of Chaos, is the personal project of Jonas Åkerlund about the story of Euronymous and Norwegian Black Metal band, Mayhem. He is, as it happens the former drummer of Bathory (a hugely influential band to Black Metal) who turned to filmmaking, making films from music videos to Spun; which included an irresistible (albeit random) use of Black Metal with Satyricon‘s ‘Mother North‘. On the other hand, Lords of Chaos is based upon a book and has been in development with different directors and staff since 2009; whilst Åkerlund has been said to have left the music scene when Black Metal was getting ‘too serious’ (possibly not because of this but just when it was). Black Metal is a genre of music that is extreme in style and has the devotion of some extreme people, these include suicidal, violent and destructive individuals. Big infamy surround one murder in particular and various church burnings, as well as a suicide and a further murder. That one murder in particular happens to be of Mayhem guitarist Euronymous by the Mayhem former bassist and Burzum (another Black Metal band) creator, Varg Vikernes. The story has been told, retold, lied about, exaggerated, distorted and spun into different ways and theories and remains a notorious and almost inseparable part of the music genre’s history.

 

The Balance of Tone within a True Story

The confusing tone will be an important part of the film. For a music genre that has it’s niche but passionate audience, of which Åkerlund might be included, the film manages to play with a relatable and also a judgmental attitude towards the people. Not glamorised and not demonised either, but leaving an important question around everything they do. The characters are vulnerable and real and this works but removes the mystique and strength. Is this music or the garage band of amateurs? This goes further into their behaviour and, this may well be the theme, the tragedy of immature youth. One-up-manship, image and the desire to be taken seriously given as possible condemning reasons for who these people are and perhaps, inferring what Black Metal is. SPOILERS: Especially by the strange decision to have Euronymous cut his hair and to wear very different clothes before his death. END OF SPOILERS. This does make for good characters and a very responsible way to depict the violence, as it is ugly and sloppy, but it also seems to show a patronising look at the characters. It’s a very strange balance.

 

It’s a Film on Truth and Lies

The film must also be understood as working within the confines of a fictionalised subjective viewpoint. It’s something that the film does make immediate reference to with Euronymous’ voiceover and the inter-title saying based upon truth and lies. This is easily forgotten by an audience and maybe even the film itself. It works very limitedly within the realms of the characters it displays: Euronymous, Varg Vikernes, Dead and Faust. Black Metal isn’t really the focal point, despite Euronymous’ claims (true or not, to his delusions) to the opposite. Whether this was chosen or not, the music primarily focuses on Mayhem with some other bands occasionally showing up (Funnily enough Bathory is a band that very rarely shows up, instead favouring Venom. This is odd just because both, if not the Norwegian Bathory, was more of an influence on them.). In a sense, despite the film almost advertising itself as otherwise, it actually helps the films themes – if they were going for a critical but sympathetic look at youth and the central four characters. This does somewhat just confuse the film’s tone.

 

Conclusion

Interesting, insofar as it is to see these events acted out and portrayed with good filmmaking ability, but it lacks a sense of diversity. The story is well known amongst metallers and there is very little feature or exploration as to the music genre, or why it happened in the first place. This is perhaps because it is complicated and the film was instead focusing on the events themselves; but doing so paints an unfortunate picture of the genre – a genre all too stereotyped as it is. It’s a strange film and best understood as a ‘lies and truth’, marginalised tale. In fact, Nergal of Behemoth said it best, see it for yourself and make up your opinion but it is a film and films can trivialise their subject matter.

 

 

Synopsis

Euronymous (Rory Culkin) starts his band Mayhem with a mind to deliver evil music, but begins to find it brings him unexpected results.

 

Ratings

Entertainment:

starfish starfish starfish starfish starfish

Performances:

starfish starfish starfish starfish starfish

Predictability:

starfish starfish starfish starfish starfish

Technical:

starfish starfish starfish starfish starfish

 

A Note on My Reviews

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis below the review for any who wish to see one.

 

Films Mentioned

Lords of Chaos (d. Jonas Åkerlund  UK/Sweden/Norway 2018)

Spun (d. Jonas Åkerlund  USA 2002)

 

Further Reading

rottentomatoes.com

metacritic.com

Official Site

Interview with Jonas Åkerlund 

Interview with Rory Culkin

Interview with Jonas Åkerlund, Rory Culkin and Emory Cohen

Behind the Scenes

Bloopers

Varg Vikernes on Lords of Chaos

Accuracy?

Guardian Article

Black Metal Mythology

Darkthrone’s Fenriz Comments as to Why they’re Not Included

 

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DADA and Black Metal – An Essay on Art and Music

A Star is Born (2018): ‘Bradley Cooper Debuts into Realistic Filmmaking’ – A Film Review

Fighting with My Family (2019): ‘Get in the Ring!’ – A Film Review

 

This was an analytical review of….

 

Lords of Chaos (d. Jonas Åkerlund  UK/Sweden/Norway 2018)



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