Archive for the film Category

Some Thoughts on the Black Metal Short Film (and the “Trveness” of Black Metal Film)

Posted in black metal, film, musings with tags , , , on January 26, 2013 by blackmetallurgy

The other day, Metal Sucks posted about the Black Metal short film that is debuting soon at the Sundance Film Festival, and which you can now view on YouTube. The film depicts the psychological turmoil of a fictional band’s vocalist when a young fan of his black metal band commits a grisly murder. Of course I watched it, and honestly I was really impressed- the character development is quite good for a film that is seven minutes plus credits, and it’s very visually appealing.

Nevertheless, something was off for me, and after much thought I think I’ve narrowed down what it is. First of all, I’m not sure of what the message is. I don’t *think* the film or its producers are saying anything bad about black metal, but I will admit that my hackles raise a little when a film looks like it might be sensationalizing my pet sub-genre. Because then that also brings up the point: why black metal? Why not a band along the lines of Judas Priest or Marilyn Manson or other bands that have been dragged into the spotlight over crimes their music allegedly inspired?

And I think that’s what really kind of bugs me. Black metal is a scary thing to people not familiar with it, but there’s actually very little of these kinds of crimes linked to it (at least to my knowledge). I mean, there was Absurd, but they had their own little thing going on, and there were those kids in Finland that Lords of Chaos talks about (plus every other crime that had nothing to do with black metal that that book linked to it anyway). When Faust was questioned about the murder he committed, he denied that the fact that he was listening to black metal beforehand had anything to do with it (I believe. I’m having trouble fact-checking this right now, but I know I read or saw it somewhere). Even though these few murders occurred in the 90s along with the church burnings and some grave robberies, but none of it actually had anything to do with black metal so much as it had to do with a bunch of kids trying to one up one another. Just because they happened to listen to black metal is not a link.

And without a link, it risks becoming another attempt to just exploit an already sensationalized art form. An art form that, despite its philosophical depth and musical variety, is often sold short by people whose interest goes no further than just wanting to gape at a series of events that I’m sure most of the people involved would kind of like to forget.

One thing that really makes this film interesting, though, is the fact that it is a fictional rendition of black metal. Black Metal is really the first film I’ve seen that is not a documentary about the genre. And it, tactfully, I think, steers clear of Norway and the events of the early nineties. When my friend Jamie and I talked about this the other day, we decided that it’s probably not possible to make a “movie” about the early nineties without being rather horrible, which is why the Lords of Chaos movie that has apparently been in the works for forever should, I think, never happen. The lives (and deaths) of these musicians were not occurring for the entertainment of the masses, and to make that into a spectacle is just… horrible and insensitive. A good movie would gloss over the nasty bits, but you and I both know that that isn’t the movie that would get made. (Sorry. Jumped off on a tangent there).

And, as I pointed out, none of the Norwegian stuff was anywhere in this movie, and that’s good. There still remains, however, an issue with fictionalizing a sub-genre like black metal that’s already plagued with all sorts of bad press based on mostly unfounded and sensationalized bullshit. That’s the reason why I got just unbelievably pissed when I saw that Bones episode about black metal, and I think that’s why I’m unsure about this film. Is it being thoughtful about a sub-genre that’s often backlashed when it’s paid attention to at all, or is it taking advantage of the common viewer’s capacity to hate and fear what isn’t familiar? I feel the same way as a lot of black metal fans, I think, when I say I’d rather watch a documentary. There are too many sensational horror stories already. Give me the truth. Let me see Necrobutcher obviously upset talking about Dead’s extremely violent suicide, let me read Metalion’s portrayal of the mixed feelings over Euronymous’ murder. Even give me Varg giving his weird explanation of Euronymous’ stab wounds coming from falling on a lamp. At least that’s real in someone’s mind. This film, I think, was trying to do in a fictional way what the picture in the True Norwegian Black Metal book did in a realistic way when Peter Beste included the photo of Samoth playing in the yard with his daughter- to show an oft-maligned subset of musicians leading normal lives. Unfortunately the message as a whole was not clear, and could easily be twisted to mean something else (and honestly, if I didn’t know that people with a knowledge of metal were involved in the making of the film, I’d default to thinking it was intended with ill-will. Most things that touch on black metal are, and after a while you just assume).

Final thoughts- Black Metal did a good job of creating a narrative surrounding a genre of music that most are unfamiliar with, and those who aren’t probably have the wrong idea about. The character development and the film as a whole were fantastic. Nevertheless, there didn’t seem to me to be any justification for why the film was about black metal, which makes me question how the film will be received. I trust that the filmmakers were sincere and weren’t intending the film as a negative reflection on black metal (I think they even worked with the Metal Sucks guys to make sure their stuff was on target, and the concert footage at the beginning was easily my favorite part. That was well done). Still, I don’t think the world is ready for thoughtful pieces on black metal. Black metal is still something foreign and scary, to the point where even a thoughtful fictional piece can easily be misconstrued as a condemnation or sensationalism, and until I am sure of that not happening, I feel safer with the whole truth. Without added clarity, it’s hard to tell what the film is saying about black metal, if it’s saying anything at all. For the time being it may be safer for black metal to stay in the dark.

-Hagalaz