Friday, April 19, 2019

A Glass Of Wine At The Movies - Lords Of Chaos

Lords Of Chaos

Rating: R (Canada)

Director: Jonas Åkerlund

Language: English

Length:  112 minutes

Cast: Rory Culkin, Jack Kilmer, Emory Cohen, Valter Skarsgård

Viewing Method: Regular Screening

Release Date: February 8, 2019 (limited)

Synopsis: A teenager's quest to launch Norwegian Black Metal in Oslo in the 1980s results in a very violent outcome. Lords of Chaos tells the true story of True Norwegian Black Metal and its most notorious practitioners - a group of young men with a flair for publicity, church-burning and murder: MAYHEM.



There are three things I forgot before heading to the theatre to see Lords of Chaos. One was that this was a movie that involved black metal music which is something I know nothing about. I showed up to see this in a bright pink t-shirt which certainly stood out in the sea of black that was present. The second thing I forgot were the details of the case. If I had remembered the suicide/murders that anchor this unbelievable story I would have anticipated how graphic this would end up being. Lastly, I forgot how vital the music was to this story. I may have been there for the true crime aspect but plenty of the other people in the audience were there for the music.

The tone and direction of Lords Of Chaos creates a duality. It is very dark, visually and tonally, at times, but it has these moments of humour pierced throughout that give the movie its outlandish feel. It also captures the cult like mentality that existed and created this scene of one-upmanship. The director clearly knows the black metal music scene and paid aching attention to detail when it came to costumes and scene setting.

The movie, while set in Norway, has a cast that speaks English and none of them even attempt a Norwegian accent. It was a confusing choice, and one that certainly stands out while watching the movie. There is an aspect of being taken out of the movie because the accents do not mesh with what you are being told. It, eventually, becomes a minor thing that oddly ends up working for the story but something worthy of noting.

Øystein Aarseth aka Euronymous (protrayed by Rory Culkin) is portrayed as someone who liked to take credit for the ideas of others. Someone who was a narcissistic show-off and braggart. He, at least in the movie, is portrayed as an opportunist who used things to his advantage when he could. He is softened with reminders of his vulnerability that are shown throughout the movie. He is torn between wanting the influence that is bestowed upon him and terrified of that same influence. It hammers home time and time again that he was just a kid who didn't know what he was doing, and who was brutally murdered in the end. Rory Culkin gives a truly impressive performance (and one that is better than anticipated). He captures both the bravado and vulnerability of the character and showcases a young man caught up in something he quickly realizes he cannot control.

Emory Cohen plays Varg Vikernes, Euronymous' murderer. Emory Cohen also gives a memorable, and chilling performance that plays perfectly off the one given by Culkin. Their combined performances, in my opinion, are what make this movie as good as it is. Emory captures the narcissistic, attention seeking, power hungry persona that drives this portrayal of Varg. Cohen's shift from this excluded outsider to someone who gleefully burns down churches feels entirely plausible. His envy and anxieties create the perfect storm that eventually leads to murder. He plays Varg with a type of detachment that makes the eventual murder of Euronymous feel almost inevitable.

The violence shown is often grotesque and brutal. The two murders that drive this unbelievable story are just as graphic as you would expect.. Every minute of the scenes depicting the death of Euronymous is felt. The suicide of Per Yngve Ohlin aka Dead (portrayed by Jack Kilmer) stand out as a scene that feels too much for many reasons. It's a jarring, and arresting scene that lasts far longer than it should. The death of Dead serves in creating some of the mythology that surrounded Euronymous. He famously took photos of Dead's body before calling the police and those photos were later used for album cover art. The movie takes time to show how much the death did impact Euronymous even if he didn't always show that to people. Jack Kilmer's performance is brief, but memorable. Dead is someone who is haunted in many ways and the light, almost fragile, way Kilmer plays him, and those scenes, is captivating.

Those going to get an insight into the black metal scene may be disappointed. This movie focuses on the true crime elements of the story and while that is driven by the music scene it is set in, it seems to push the music itself to the background. It also seems to want to ignore the ideologies that drove some of these young men. The movie doesn't really examine toxic masculinity that this is actually steeped in. It would have had a huge impact on the events that happened but is ignored in favour of portraying these characters as just a bunch of young men who were what they accused everyone else of being - posers.

Euronymous ends the movie listing off all the things he accomplished in his young but short life, albeit in his narcissistic fashion, and asking the audience 'what in the fuck have you done lately, poser?' filled with arrogance. This to me sums up not just Euronymous as Culkin is portraying him, but the real young men who were at the core of this horrific story. The movie paints a picture of them as bored, entitled young men who wanted to make music, be as shocking as possible, and who tried to one up each other with deadly consequences. 

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