Until the light takes us (2008)

Until The Light Takes Us recollects the Norwegian Black Metal scene of the early 1990s. Made notorious by a series of church burnings and homicides the subculture was subsequently tarred as satanism by the media. The film revisits that time, interviewing many key people and readdressing some claims about their motivations and beliefs.
Our two key interviewees are Varg Vikernes aka Count Grishnakh of Burzum seen here as he was until 2009, in Trondheim maximum security prison. Also Gylve of Darkthrone, a more passive character very involved in the scene but whom never crossed the line into criminal or violent activity. The interviews are totally engaging, especially that of Vikernes who is eloquent and compelling in his beliefs against the christian church and in a music which is surprisingly provocative when explained from it's conception. The film paces well by constantly turning our head between our two main subjects Varg & Gylve, representing the past and the present, the origins and a critique of the commercialization of Black metal culture in Norway, you could even say two perspectives from either side of the law.
It might be a stretch but I couldn't help noticing many parallels between black metal and the Rap scene of the early nineties. So many artists wanting to be the baddest, no-one backing down, everyone wanting to be the most extreme and both scenes crescendo with a series of deaths before being exploited commercially. Obviously the modern rap/R'n'B business is turning round much more cash these days, but the parallels were there at the start.
The production here is decent but what makes the film is really the subject and the clever way in which things are brought together to avoid a one note movie. Instead of just being about the music and excluding most of it's potential audience, Until the light takes us is instead about the people behind the music and the environments and circumstances that made them who they are. It takes an anthropologists perspective on Black Metal as a subculture rather than simply a musical genre. The soundtrack to the film is mercifully not Black Metal, instead the filmmakers opted for some electronic music which is moodier, cinematic and just works better.
It left me feeling enlightened and more appreciative in general of a scene I never understood and had had little exposure to. I was shocked at times and in awe that all this had happened and I knew nothing about it, swept under the carpet mostly. Now the right people have a chance to talk about it to a quite objective, some might even say sympathetic filmmaker. Provocative and controversial, just the way art should be.


the coelacanth said...

the next time someone misuses an apostrophe, i'm going to burn a church.

Britarded said...

your a cun't.

the coelacanth said...

good review, tommy. i felt much the same way about the film, and as an avid listener/collector of black metal, i too was at first kind of thrown for a loop that the film focused less on the music and more on the people behind the music. but wait, that sounds cheesy - this is no "VH1 behind the music", but a deeply felt and thought out portrayal of some highly controversial and influential figures in the BM scene (don't....don't...). i loved this film as i love the music. i can see purists hating it, thinking it focuses on too few players in the scene ("what!? no mention of _______ who recorded a two track ep through a deer's skull in the carpathian forest? bullshit!"). but i am a fan who prefers USBM to the norwegian variety, so maybe i'm fucked from the beginning. hope someone does as good a doc on that scene soon enough, though. regardless, great film, provocative, engaging, informative. check it, fools.

Niki Diamonds said...

Global Metal dabbled in Varg's burning of churches and such... very interesting. I'm excited to get my metal on!