Lords of Chaos Movie Review
Written by Ryan Holloway
Released by Arrow Films
Directed by Jonas Åkerlund
Written by Dennis Magnusson (Screenplay)and Jonas Åkerlund (Screenplay)
2019, 112 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
Released in cinemas on March 28th 2019
Rory Culkin as Euronymous
Emory Cohen as Kristian ‘Varg’ Vikernes
Jack Kilmer as Pelle ‘Dead’ Ohlin
Sky Ferreira as Ann-Marit
Lords of Chaos charts the rise of Oslo-based band Mayhem, the infamous ‘true’ Norwegian Black Metal Band from the late 80s/ early 90s.
The film goes to some very dark places and sharply examines a lifestyle that goes far beyond devil horns and head banging, including some scenes that are probably some of the most unsettling to ever be committed to film.
Stories of people being sick during early screenings are very real, this reviewer saw it first hand, and although this seems to be a staple for a lot of horror, on this occasion it is not so much a badge of honour but something of a warning that some people have a very understandably visceral reaction to some truly distressing content. This is a biopic that doesn’t just scratch the surface of the Black Metal lifestyle but delves deep into the veins of its very soul — for want of a better word.
The story is told via Euronymous’ (Culkin) narration, who in an attempt to distance himself from his idyllic Scandinavian life, that includes his parents’ beautiful house and obligatory Volvo, forms a band and, along with members of the group and close friends, a sect called The Black Circle.
The circle itself is an excuse to party unseen and is driven by a mentality to revolutionise music and open people’s eyes to the hypocrisy of modern life by spreading its evil ideals.
When they receive a dead rat in the post along with a demo tape, this is a grisly introduction to Dead (Kilmer) who joins the band as their new singer and not only loves the lifestyle but lives it.
After a very successful gig involving self-harm and a pig’s head being thrown into the blood thirsty crowd, Euronymous meets Varg, a fan who is initially taken as a fool but ends up joining the band after he reveals his musical talent.
From here on in we become absorbed in this world as a rivalry rises between Varg and Euronymous and their Black Circle crimes escalate.
But between the scenes of violence there is a humour that runs through the film highlighting the childishness of their acts. Although they do some very despicable things, they are most definitely too young to understand the real gravity of their actions and this is wonderfully displayed during a scene in which Varg talks to the press about The Black Circle and his naivety shows as he poses for photos and admits to recent Church burnings that have dominated the local news.
It’s also hard to maintain a façade of evil when you ask the journalist and photographer to take off their shoes before entering the house – this is a moment that is both funny and strangely heart breaking.
Rory Culkin is incredible as Euronymous and perfectly expresses the angst of a young man who wants to change the world and who, as a leader, tries to control the uncontrollable with misplaced bravado.
Sky Ferreira as Ann-Marit also adds a very realistic levity to the film but sadly, although Emory Cohen is a perfect choice on paper as Varg, his performance often feels like it's from another film and doesn’t quite altogether gel with the film’s temperament. He does however come into his own in some of the moments exploring the audacity of youth and a young man who gets in way over his head.
Director Jonas Åkerlund, who is mostly known for music videos and the recent Netflix film Polar, produces something stunning here, with a realistic aesthetic that never shies away from showing us the difficult stuff.
It’s a very hard watch but one deserving of attention whether you like Black Metal or not. It is the living, breathing embodiment of the musical genre and of a lifestyle that, like any other, is a way for people to find their way of fitting in.
Lords of Chaos captures life, death, and the absurdity of it all, in both an extreme and tragic way.
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