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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Review: Lords of Chaos

Director: Jonas Åkerlund
Screenplay: Dennis Magnusson y Jonas Åkerlund
Year: 2019

The black metal music genre has its origins in the Scandinavian region. Black metal is usually associated with an extreme style, where its exponents use body paint and occultism symbology. “Lords of Chaos” tells the story of the origin of the band Mayhem and how it influenced the music scene to show and popularize this genre, focusing on the point of view of its guitarist and creator of the band known as Euronymous. At the same time that Mayhem is recognized for its musical influence, they are also recognized for much controversy, including church burnings and murders.

“Lords of Chaos” takes place in 1987, where the 17 years old young guitarist Euronymous traces the goal to create real Norwegian black metal with his band Mayhem. For this, he manages to create impressive publicity stunt to put the band on the map, but the line between the spectacle and reality starts to blur.

The first minutes of “Lords of Chaos” go by more like a comedy movie than a horror movie. In this time, we get to know guitarist Øystein Aarseth, also known as Euronymous, convincingly portrayed by Rory Culkin (“Signs”), in his beginnings in music. Euronymous lives in a quiet suburban area of Norway with his parents and his little sister, who reminds him every time he rehearses with his friends how bad they sound, but with whom he shares a tight family bond. Soon Euronymous and the rest of the band he has formed at the moment manage to get an isolated cabin, which is the perfect place to practice. This is where Pelle Ohlin, also known as Dead and interpreted by Jack Kilmer (“The Nice Guys”) joins the band.

Once Dead joins the band its style changes completely, as well as the style of the movie up to this point. Dead takes on an extreme style, paying homage to its pseudonym, in which he cut himself during concerts and used severed pig and sheep heads as decorations for its stage. Here the movie puts the comedy aside for a while and focuses on the radical and terrific style of Dead until it leads to his suicide, a key and controversial moment for the band, as images of his corpse were used as the cover of one of their albums. This is shown in a hard-to-watch raw scene in the movie.

After Dead’s demise, Kristian Vikernes, known as Varg and interpreted by Emory Cohen (“Brooklyn”) joins the band, and like what happened with Dead, the entry of Varg completely changes the dynamics of the band and the movie. While Dead had a radical personality since he is introduced, Varg is more mysterious and his psychopathic personality its shown little by little, picking up steam parallel to his success and notoriety. Since this point, a lot of effort is put on developing the contrasting personalities of Euronymous and Varg, which is important for the events that will keep unfolding and the outcome. The acting of Culkin and Cohen are always good, and it is always tangible the competition that exists between, but that neither admits.

Something that picked my attention is that this being a biopic of the band that initiated black metal, the music is not the predominant element. For this, director Jonas Åkerlund, who also had a career in the world of metal music, where he was the drummer for the band Bathory, recognizes that this style of music is not liked by everyone and that it could result in a difficult experience for the viewer that is not used to it. It is also worth mentioning that this movie does not count with the approval of some of the people portrayed in it and that they had some copyright problems with some of the songs from Mayhem and Burzum, for which they had to take out some of them.

“Lords of Chaos” is a biopic of the band Mayhem and their influence in true Norwegian black metal, based on the book with the same name. The movie tells the chilling tale about the events that took place around this band and that are more shocking when you consider that most of them really happened, although some people, including Varg Vikernes himself, have been opposed to the book and the movie, for what he arguments that in them the events are not correctly portrayed. Even so, “Lords of Chaos” addresses well the story and controversy of this band and leaves you with a sense of discomfort and dread about these events in a cinematography exercise that in general does well in all its facets.

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