Directed by Jonas Akerlund, and though it premiered at multiple film festivals in 2018 it was first released theatrically in 2019.
Very disappointing film this one. I wasn’t expecting much after hearing members of the band it portrays bash it but nonetheless as the subject matter is something I’ve been interested in for a long time and I’ve been a fan of the music for an equal amount of time, I thought I’d give it a go.
Now anyone familiar with black metal in any way shape or form will know of Varg Vikernes and Euronymous but I will give a brief breakdown here for those unaware. In Norway in the early 1990s the black metal scene was just blooming. Some of the key figures in this movement were the band Mayhem, and the one-manband Burzum. These bands were closely interconnected and this became abundantly clear after the main player in Burzum was arrested for the murder of the guitarist of Mayhem. He was also charged with the burning down of several churches in the area. The film includes all of these details and rightfully so in the telling of the story. What the film gets wrong however, is just about everything else.
What we’re ultimately given here is a film that makes a dead man a hero and an alive one the villain. Anyone who has seen the documentary “Until The Light Takes Us” or in fact any interview with Varg (aside from his popular YouTube channel) will be able to completely separate the character portrayed in this movie from the real human being behind the story. In the film he is portrayed as a bumbling Nazi idiot who is clearly only in the scene to get laid and to become famous (even though this narrative is strongly challenged by the film itself later on; after Varg is released from prison and he meets with Euronymous in a cafe, Euronymous asks him what it feels like to be a celebrity). Anyone with half a brain can clearly see that these motives are in fact of Euronymous and not Varg. But of course, Varg is a murdering Nazi, and Euronymous is a murdered rockstar. Why would we want to be sympathetic to a murdering Nazi idiot scumbag just to accurately portray the truth of the situation?
Fuck truth! Let’s just twist the facts so we can make an awesome movie. Well you failed there, didn’t you?
Portraying the aggressor as the villain inevitably leads the person being attacked to become the hero – which gives us an incredibly cringe-worthy lead character who we’re supposed to believe is some sort of puppet master of the entire black metal scene as a whole. Although Mayhem may indeed be responsible for influencing a lot of the music of that period, in my humble opinion it’s Varg’s project Burzum aswell as bands like Bathory that played a huge part in the beginnings of this genre, if not moreso. Without Varg’s involvement in Mayhem in the first place we might not have had the album which many (including this film) claim to be a black metal masterpiece in “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”.
All in all, the film doesn’t reflect the reality of what really happened in this situation – and even though the film opens with the title card “Based on truth, lies and what really happened” that doesn’t allow the filmmakers to just completely out and out slander the one main character still alive today to tell his own version of the story. Many may doubt Varg’s own version of the story – because after he all he did stab a man twenty-three times killing him in the process and served a lengthy prison sentence because of it; and I wouldn’t blame anyone for doing so. But anyone with one small amoeba of common sense in their brain with more than a passing knowledge of the events depicted in this fim will be able to discern fact from fiction and reality from cheap-shock Hollywood tactics.
What I will say that this film does well is the gore.
And that’s about it really.
The scene involving the suicide of the original singer of Mayhem, Dead, is done fantastically well and – along with Jack Kilmer’s performance as Dead – is probably the only redeeming aspect of the film.
For a film about black metal – a music scene involving devil worship, pigs heads, blood (and lots of it) – getting the gore right is pretty damn important… It’s just a shame they got everything else wrong.
EDIT: Varg’s YouTube channel has since been shut down so I am unable to share his response to the film. Needless to say, he wasn’t impressed.