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Until The Light Takes Us
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In the '80s and '90s, a scary, primitive subgenre of heavy metal took root in wealthy, beautiful Norway. How and why Black Metal was created, and how it suddenly exploded into a media frenzy as some of its practitioners started burning down churches and committing murders... that's what this film explores.
But it's all somehow handled with restraint, and mainly from the point of view of the musicians themselves. There are interviews with many of the main players in Norway's black metal scene, including the infamous and eerily charming Varg Vikernes from his dorm-like prison cell, but there's very little performance footage here -- it's not a "rock documentary" in that sense. In fact in a way "Until The Light" unfolds more like an art film. To the filmmakers, Black Metal is an opportunity to explore how artistic intent and meaning gets re-interpreted and twisted by culture and media. It's the ultimate post-modern tale.
That said, the film is gripping, full of fascinating and contradictory characters. The soundtrack features hushed electronica by bands like Mum, the cinematography swings between gritty handheld stuff and composed naturescapes... it's an unusual atmosphere for a documentary. If you're into Black Metal you're going to watch this movie anyway, but indie movie lovers should give it a spin too.
The DVDs are beautifully packaged, in what appears to be a newer type of plastic clamp system (instead of popping the disc out, you go "down and up"). DO NOT FORCE THE DISC OUT NO MATTER HOW EXCITED YOU MAY BE TO HEAR FENRIZ TALK FOR AN HOUR. You will break it. While the package is minimalist and sleek, it is constructed almost completely out of paperboard, so wear and damage over time is a possiblilty. The artwork, however, is breathtaking - the disc covers resemble little Polish paper cuts, or the cover of an Agalloch album (think slate purples and grays, with black animal silhouettes). A very informative booklet sits inside without any individual housing pocket.
One of the greatest things about recieving this was that there was a sticker on the shrinkwrap stating "4 Extra Hours of Black Metal." How often does one see that? While some of the extras are neat, like most cutting room slag, the viewer understands why it was left behind. The extra footage is wonderfully organized by band, so fans can navigate through what they want to see easily. BTW there was a TON of Enslaved and Ulver footage that didn't make it in (lame). We also get to see Fenriz create a "History of Black Metal" bubble chart on a chalkboard, but alas being raw footage it is incredibly lengthy and at times boring.
Of course metalheads around the world have been yapping on about "Until the Light Takes Us" for the months prior and after its release, but this movie is so artfully and cleanly done that I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in music subculture and, without thinking this a stretch, world cultures.
What I find most interesting is the insight you get into what it is to be Norwegian. It's such a communal culture, and people like this--the nails that stick up--get hammered down. It's no surprise that a thing like Black Metal would take root in a place like that. It's their expression of rebellion. (Fenriz even says something about how he loves the art of tired and privileged Western bourgeoises.) But then taken a step further into murderous criminality and hate crimes.
Anyway, it's not about teaching you facts or trivia (though the Fenriz lecture in the bonus material is brilliant), it's about getting the feeling of the thing. Black Metal isn't all aggression and violence. It's a sort of appreciation--or at least, examination--of the darkness of things (sorry for sounding like one of those silly goth kids). You also get a feeling for how completely seriously these guys take themselves. Anyway, I really recommend it.
Here is the interesting part; that was 1999-2000, so these Black Metallers from their tucked away corner of the globe were already entering their second decade as bands...or inmates. Fast forward eleven more years to 2010 and we have overpriced picture books, parody albums, guest appearances, American kvlts, and even a few documentary films.
"Until the Light Takes Us" is a lot of things, but most importantly it is NOT a journalistic expose into "the intriguing and mysterious world of Black Metal". If anything, thank Odin, this film is a subtle middle finger to all those "pieces" that attempt to either exploit atrocity or over-intellectualize. For too long outsiders, like myself, have had unauthorized license to make BM into what they want it to be. But behind the veiled mystery are real people, real cultures, real history. Black Metal wasn't spewed from hell upon us, it came about under very real circumstances. "Until the Light Takes Us" puts those real people and circumstances side-by-side with the BS'ers who think they understand.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I wish they would've gone into more detail about the band's other than the church burnings and murders.Published 1 month ago by Eliseo
Not so much into black metal but very interesting and we'll put togetherPublished 2 months ago by Foz
Some was hard to understand but a great documentary for lovers of dark metal.Published 15 months ago by M. Evans-Williams
A great documentary if you have insight already as to what the story is. Not so great if you are an outsider.Published 21 months ago by Aaron Lamont
Varg vikernes has a worldview that is so intriguing and this movie goes right into his head.Published 22 months ago by frank sturt