SparksFury Rating: 7/10
Deathscript Rating: 6.2/10
High Points: The interviews and early Mayhem footage
Low Points: Point of the film hard to determine, grossly under-packed with relevant material and while touted as a movie for black metal fans, probably not their key demographic
It’s been about ten days since the Metal Call-Out team descended upon Salt Lake City to see the much-hyped black metal documentary ‘Until The Light Takes Us’ at the Tower Theater. The Tower Theater is a one screen, unkempt affair, nestled in an artsy collegic part of town where I’m sure its obscurity is part of the appeal. We all settled (while feeling quite unsettled) in the center of the theater under what seemed like a scored and cracked ceiling of impending doom and the lights dimmed.
“Until The Light Takes Us” primarily deals with the events that occurred in Norway in the 90’s including suicides, murders and a whole slew of church burnings. I’m sure you can find a full write up on the events in question somewhere out on the internet, but for the sake of time and space I will only touch on those events and review the actual movie.
Once the movie began, what took place for the next hour in a half was more an exercise in cognitive dissonance than anything else. While the film's interviews and seemingly candid looks into the lives of the likes of Varg Vikernes and Fenriz were interesting, the cut scenes and artistic minimalism of the filming (ie. shaky as shit) gave me the feeling that this was not really meant for metal fans. I taken back at the thought that the film makers boasted of spending two years in Norway, interviewing and familiarizing themselves with the 'scene', and this one and a half hours of mostly cut scenes and disorganized timelines were all they could come come up with...
There were some positive aspects of the film so it wasn't a complete loss. The interviews and day-to-day life scenes with Fenriz were fascinating and his massive and eclectic collection of tapes, CDs, and vinyls were unlike anything I had seen before. His attitude about the “black metal fad” and perception of the crimes portrayed in in the film were both fascinating and a little depressing. The interviews with Varg Vikernes were eye opening to say the least, and when he wasn't spouting off paranoid, insane bigotry he actually had a few agreeable points. His version of the crimes committed varied from court documents and the media portrayal, leading the viewer to understand perhaps more of the whole truth behind the insanity in Norway that would probably never have been fully known otherwise.
The desensitization of many people interviewed in the documentary was astounding. I hope to never understand how one could take pictures of their recently dead friend and use it as an album cover, or how burning a church over a thousand years old could come with such ease, regardless of what denomination it may be. That is to say, I feel the Pagans who had their churches torn down in the 1100’s to make way for Christian churches were wronged--but burning the churches built in their place almost a thousand years later doesn't exactly make it right.
Another interesting point the film made, though it was not entirely clear, was the subsequent ploys from other artists, musicians and the like, in profiting off the imagery and morbid interest that followed the commotion in Norway at that time. Most notable were the interviews and 'performances' of a certain Frost, frontman of Satyricon. Much to the disappointment of many 'founding fathers' of the genre, Frost helped in creating a popular culture interest in early black metal, putting on 'performances' in art galleries where he blows fire on paintings to horrified art students and then pretends to kill himself. A brief mention of the filmmaker Harmony Korine, who uses early black metal as soundtracks to his terrible indie-wank movies was frustrating and all together pointless.
In all, ‘Until The Light Takes Us’ is an interesting and informative documentary, probably not meant for mass consumption by metal-heads. It left a lot to be desired and I couldn’t help feeling the movie perhaps missed both the point and the mark of relevance, catering more to the new-found 'hipster' interest in black metal, rather than the genre and its constituents itself. If you're looking for a raw documentary about the events in Norway from an organized point of view like I was, this might not be your cup of tea--but it’s worth a sip to satisfy the curiosity that killed the cat. If you enjoy the aggressive angles and camera work of most indie produced films and you're a fad-driven brand new fan of the genre looking for a topic of conversation you think will give you some 'street-cred', then rejoice. Or just look for the Hollywood take of the book ‘Lords of Chaos’ that is in production this year. *blech*