Thursday, March 10, 2011

Until the Light Takes Us

I finally got to see this black metal documentary, Until the Light Takes Us,which came out on DVD recently. I enjoyed it in a way that I'm not really comfortable with.

The subjects are the surviving members of the Norwegian black metal scene in the '90s, a scene that imploded in the wake of a series of church burnings, a murder or two, and the subsequent media circus. The filmmakers chose to provide a more or less blank backdrop against which their completely batshit subjects could tell their own story. And then the movie is paced and edited and shot in such a way that you feel reflective, even meditative while watching it, and the filmmakers are very much invisible in the whole process. You don't hear the questions, only the answers, which are mainly culled from a series of very intimate interviews with Gylve Nagell of Darkthrone and Varg Vikernes of Burzum. Some of the figures in the movie are charming, or at least unforgettable, and each of them is also completely out of his mind to this day. So, you have this kind of freakishly peaceful and elegant encounter with some genuinely dangerous artists.

I loved it because it was such an aestheticized treatment of the characters and events, but I was also uncomfortable with it for the same reason. It featured a few visual artists, including Harmony Korine, who have been inspired by black metal to create paintings/installations/performance art for galleries. In fact, there are more visual artists who have been inspired by black metal than were included in the documentary. It's easy to see how the scene appeals to them, but their interest is also almost more unsettling than the reality of the scene itself. In the wake of the DVD release I've been seeing enthusiastic posts about black metal cropping up on hip blogs, which is similarly weird and creepy.

In the end, the subjects relate just enough of their story that a few misconceptions about Norwegian black metal are corrected (They're not satanists, okay?) and an intelligent viewer can pick up where Until the Light Takes Us leaves off and fill in a few blanks for themselves. I was happy to mull things over on my own as the credits rolled and it definitely leaves you with plenty to mull over. So, fine, it was kind of amazing and easily the weirdest movie I've watched in awhile.

On a related note, Varg Vikernes is coming out with a new Burzum album, because he's not in jail anymore. I'm not endorsing this. I'm just telling you. I'm also just telling you about these black metal greeting cards on Etsy. I'm kind of in love with Etsy's dark side lately.


1 comment:

julialikesred said...

Fuck ya, Erk and I need to see this.