Lords of Chaos (film)
|Lords of Chaos|
UK theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jonas Åkerlund|
|Based on||Lords of Chaos|
by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind
|Music by||Sigur Rós|
|Cinematography||Pär M. Ekberg|
|Edited by||Rickard Krantz|
|Distributed by||Arrow Films (United Kingdom)|
Gunpowder & Sky (United States)
Lords of Chaos is a 2018 horror-thriller film directed by Jonas Åkerlund and written by Dennis Magnusson and Åkerlund. Adapted from the 1998 book of the same name, the film is a semi-fictionalised account of the early 1990s Norwegian black metal scene told from the perspective of Mayhem co-founder Euronymous. It stars Rory Culkin as Euronymous, Emory Cohen as Varg Vikernes, Jack Kilmer as Dead, and Sky Ferreira as Ann-Marit.
The film premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, was released in the United States on 8 February 2019 by Gunpowder & Sky, and was released in the United Kingdom on 29 March 2019 by Arrow Films. It received positive reviews.
In the 1980s, a young guitarist called Euronymous forms a black metal band called Mayhem, the first of the genre in their country of Norway, with Necrobutcher on bass, and Manheim on drums. Manhein leaves and is soon replaced by new drummer Hellhammer and they recruit a new vocalist from Sweden called Dead, who exhibits self-destructive behavior, which he portrays during their live shows by cutting himself and bleeding on the audience, and throwing pig heads at the "posers". At a show filmed by their friend Metalion, the band meets a fan named Kristian, whom Euronymous initially looks down on.
While home alone, Dead uses his personal knife to cut his arms and throat, and then uses Euronymous' shotgun to shoot himself in the forehead, leaving behind a suicide note. Euronymous returns home and finds the body but instead of calling the police, he takes photos of the body and moves the knife and shotgun around. After Dead's body is taken away, Euronymous gives necklaces to the other band members which he claims are pieces of Dead's skull; this disgusts Necrobutcher, prompting him to leave the band.
Soon after, Euronymous starts his own black metal record label and opens a record shop called Helvete ("Hell"), which becomes a social hub for black-metallers like Metalion, Fenriz of Darkthrone, Faust of Emperor, and Kristian (who is now calling himself Varg Vikernes) of Burzum. They become known as the "Black Circle". After being mocked by an ego-driven Euronymous, Varg uses his anti-Christian beliefs as motivation to burn down a local church. When approached by Varg concerning his status as the leader of the Black Circle, Euronymous burns down a church with Faust and Varg accompanying.
Euronymous recruits Varg as bassist, a guitarist called Blackthorn and a Hungarian vocalist, Attila Csihar, to record Mayhem's first album, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. A power dispute between Varg and Euronymous arises.
After a wave of church burnings begins, Faust brutally kills a gay man, leading police to link black-metallers to the crimes. Helvete is raided and shut down by the police, and Varg is arrested as prime suspect because of an interview with a Bergen newspaper in which he claimed to have been the one who burned the churches and killed the gay man. He is soon released for lack of evidence. Varg meets with Euronymous and tells him that he is leaving Mayhem and that he is going to start his own record label. Euronymous reveals that the "skull piece" necklaces were fakes, and that he never intended anyone to actually follow through on his angry rhetoric, which infuriates Varg.
In anger, Euronymous rants to a peer about wanting to kill Varg, but later calms down and sends him a contract to release the rights for his music back to him. Varg, having heard that Euronymous was making death threats against him, travels to Oslo in the early morning of August 10 to confront him. Telling Euronymous he wants to sign the contract, he enters his apartment and, after a brief conversation, stabs him. Euronymous pleads for his life, but Varg follows him through the apartment to the stairwell outside and stabs him to death. The next day, the news of Euronymous' murder spreads throughout Norway and Varg is soon arrested. He is sent to prison for a maximum of 21 years, guilty of both the murder of Euronymous and the burning of several churches. In a voice-over, Euronymous tells the audience not to feel sorry for him, that he enjoyed his life and invented a new sub-genre of metal.
- Rory Culkin as Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth
- Emory Cohen as Kristian "Varg" Vikernes
- Jack Kilmer as Pelle "Dead" Ohlin
- Anthony De La Torre as Jan Axel "Hellhammer" Blomberg
- Sky Ferreira as Ann-Marit
- Valter Skarsgård as Bård Guldvik "Faust" Eithun
- Sam Coleman as Jon "Metalion" Kristiansen
- Jonathan Barnwell as Jørn "Necrobutcher" Stubberud
- Wilson Gonzalez Ochsenknecht as Varg's Driver
- Lucian Charles Collier as Stian "Occultus" Johannsen
- Anette Martinsen as Norwegian Newscaster
- Andrew Lavelle as Gylve "Fenriz" Nagell
- James Edwin as Kjetil Manheim
- Arion Csihar as Attila Csihar
- Jason Arnopp as himself
Lords of Chaos is based on the 1998 book of the same name. Originally, Japanese director Sion Sono was set to direct a film based on the book, with Jackson Rathbone starring as Varg Vikernes. It would have been Sono's first English-language film. The screenplay was written by Hans Fjellestad (who was earlier reported to be the film's director as well), Ryan Page, Adam Parfrey (the book's publisher), and Sono. In July 2009, Sono stated that filming (in Norway) would begin in August or September and end in December. The film was set to be released in 2010. It was later announced that Rathbone would no longer be playing Vikernes due to scheduling conflicts.
In May 2015, it was announced that former Bathory drummer and film director Jonas Åkerlund would direct the film. The film was set to shoot in the fall of 2015 in Norway, but for unknown reasons, filming didn't begin until 2016. The film was shot in Oslo, Norway, with live performance scenes shot in Budapest, Hungary. The live sequences shoot also included filming for the Metallica music video "ManUNkind", starring the cast of the film.
Vikernes, who had already expressed criticisms against the book, stated in a video uploaded to his YouTube channel in 2016 that when approached by the filmmakers, he, along with Mayhem and Darkthrone, denied the rights for their music to be used in the film. In a 2018 interview, Åkerlund said that they had in fact secured the rights to Mayhem's music.
Åkerlund described the film as "about truth and lies". In an interview for Dazed Digital, it was reported that Åkerlund consulted "original band merch ... was granted access to key police reports as well as detailed photos of Euronymous’s record store Helvete, and the house the band camped out in. ... Åkerlund even used real locations for exterior shots of, among others, Euronymous’s flat and a rebuilt church that Vikernes burnt down in Holmenkollen."
Culkin said that he prepared for his role by consulting several associates of Euronymous: "They almost always compared him to a mythological creature: one person said he was kind of like a gnome and another said he was like an evil elf. Because he was small a dude but confident in himself and he has this clan around him, people really embellished and lionised him."
In one scene from the film, Dead anachronistically declares, "We are Lords of Chaos." The name actually originates from the unrelated American criminal group whose name was adopted for the book Lords of Chaos. The book's scope was not focused solely on the Norwegian black metal scene.
Jack Kilmer's performance as the band's frontman Dead has received praise for being the most accurate portrayal in the film, with the exception of one scene where he has a cat hanging from his room. The real Dead never killed any cats but did chase them off for fun. Some criticisms were made that the Live in Jessheim scene jumps to Dead's suicide, given a whole year had passed in between both events and Euronymous' harsh treatment towards Dead was never portrayed.
Release and reception
The first screening on Lords of Chaos was held during 2018 Sundance Film Festival on 23 January 2018 in Park City, Utah. In October 2018, a first-quarter 2019 release window for the US was announced, with Arrow Films securing the rights for distribution in the UK. It was released in the US on 8 February 2019 by Gunpowder & Sky. In the UK, it was released on 29 March 2019.
Reactions from the depicted
Attila Csihar, in a January 2019 interview, stated that the official opinion of the current Mayhem members regarding the film and its creators is a "big fuck you". He pointed out that the film was based on a book and only focused on Mayhem during the 1990s, not the whole black metal scene at the time. He confirmed that some Tormentor songs appear in the film and that he himself is played by his son, Arion Csihar. Attila himself was present during the shooting of the church burning scenes.[better source needed]
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Lords of Chaos holds an approval rating of 74% based on 68 reviews, and an average rating of 6.6/10. It states that the general consensus among critics was that "Lords of Chaos presents a grimly compelling dramatization of a real-life music scene whose aggressively nihilistic aesthetic spilled over into fatal acts of violence." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 47 out of 100, based on 15 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
In his review for The Hollywood Reporter Justin Lowe praised Lords of Chaos as a "vibrant biopic" that "provokes both awe and repulsion". Amy Nicholson of Variety wrote that "Despite Åkerlund’s refusal to lionize these immature kids, Lords of Chaos is tremendous fun. ... he can also get great performances out of a young cast". Indiewire's Michael Nordine awarded the film a B rating and wrote "Lords of Chaos is frequently unpleasant but oddly compelling — not least because Åkerlund ensures that the film never takes itself as seriously as its subjects did."
Conversely, The A.V. Club's Katie Rife decried that "Åkerlund's understanding [of the Norwegian black metal scene] is more like contempt". Kory Grow of Rolling Stone wrote: "perhaps the film's worst sin is its tone ... It’s not fun. It’s not sad. A lot of the time, it’s not even all that interesting." Robert Ham of Consequence of Sound wrote that "Instead of courting [the black metal] audience, or trying to find some middle ground where [Åkerlund] celebrates the music while rightfully disparaging the actions of some of its worst figureheads, he punches down with a smirk and dismisses the birth of a genre as the product of misspent youth."
The New York Times' Manohla Dargis criticised the film for "never establish[ing] a coherent or interesting point of view. The tone unproductively veers from the goofy to the creepy, which creates a sense that [Åkerlund] was still figuring it out in the editing." Robert Abele of The Los Angeles Times summarized that "Ultimately it all adds up to a hodgepodge of styles and attitudes with hardly any insight into what made this corrosive clique so magnetic to its adherents."
- Until the Light Takes Us, 2008 documentary film about the Norwegian black metal scene
- Murder of Euronymous
- "Lords of Chaos (2019) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
- This is how the character is credited in the film. It doesn't matter that Varg no longer uses the "Kristian" name. This is how it's credited in the film.
- Although Dead's real first name was "Per" the film credit uses his nickname "Pelle" and the name "Per" is not mentioned once in the film only "Pelle" and "Dead" therefore "Pelle" is the correct term for the cast listing.
- Credited as "Varg's Driver" for legal reasons and not named at any point in the film. The correct credit is Varg's Driver which should be listed on here not "Blackthorn".
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