November 3, 2010

Justify My Netflix: Until the Light Takes Us

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

Until the Light Takes Us

Today's movie: Until the Light Takes Us, 2009 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this 2009 documentary covers a subject I find endlessly fascinating -- the rise of the "black metal" music subgenre in late-'80s and early-'90s Scandinavia, that is, and how specifically in Norway the scene grew so out of control as to eventually result in hundreds of burnings of historic wooden churches, as well as half a dozen murders.

(By the way, there are lots more clips from this movie over at YouTube, for those who want to check them out.)

The reality: Stor! And I have to say, this subject still continues to transfix me, even two decades now since the original events, which is why a documentary like this is such a welcome one -- because as someone who's been a part of several insular cultural "scenes" over the years, I'm fascinated with the way that the petty jealousies and bragging rights that come with any such community reached such horrible proportions in this case, which when you boil it down really only amounted to less than 50 major players mostly concentrated in Oslo, and whose activities mostly revolved around a single record store in the city's center. But as filmmakers Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell so adroitly show us, through a combination of historical archives and contemporary interviews, sometimes this is all a group of people need for their actions to profoundly devolve, especially when you add the proclivity for violence among this specific sect, the mental imbalance among many of its members, and their collective obsession over pagan mythology and death imagery.

In fact, about the only criticism you see of this riveting film is simply that it covers subjects that have been comprehensively covered before (most of the photos you see in this film, for example, were already published in Michael Moynihan and Didrik Soderlind's excellent 1998 book on the same subject, Lords of Chaos), although I'm not sure how valid that criticism actually is; after all, the film also features extensive new interviews with many of the people involved, including a surprisingly contrite jailhouse reminisce from musician Varg Vikernes (a.k.a. "the Norwegian Charles Manson"), revered grandfather of the scene who was also convicted of killing the owner of the aforementioned record-store community headquarters, and who has spent the twenty years since baiting the press from his prison cell with a series of outlandish statements and manifestos. Imagine if the weepy writers of your local poetry community started going around shooting each other in the head and bombing Catholic churches, and you suddenly get an idea of why people are still so obsessed with the events of the '80s and '90s Scandinavian black-metal scene; and this excellent, well-done documentary goes a long way towards explaining how exactly things got as terrible as they did.

Worth your time? Yes

Filed by Jason Pettus at 10:02 AM, November 3, 2010. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |