Lords of Chaos
- James Mottram
- 25 March 2019
Disturbing, fact-based story of music and murder from director Jonas Åkerlund
Swedish director Jonas Åkerlund (Spun) returns with a disturbing story of music and murder. Unfolding in the early 1990s, it follows the formation of an obscure sub-genre: Norwegian black metal. The hardcore sights and sounds are liable to alienate most viewers, but Åkerlund keeps us engrossed in this horribly riveting true story.
As its centre is Øystein Aarseth (aka 'Euronymous') – played by the excellent Rory Culkin – the creative force behind the band Mayhem. With the film leaning on and taking its title from Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind's account of the group, Åkerlund distances himself from Spinal Tap-isms, depicting the band's early rise as their self-harming vocalist Per Yngve 'Dead' Ohlin (Jack Kilmer) kills himself. Music video maestro Åkerlund (a regular collaborator with Beyoncé and Madonna) has never been afraid of confrontation, and the graphic suicide sequence is liable to send the squeamish scuttling for the exit.
Euronymous, meanwhile, takes his bandmate's death as an opportunity, photographing it and using it as promotional material. Mayhem are gradually on the rise, and when his parents front the cash for Euronymous to open his own Oslo record store, he and his followers have a base. Things really heat up when he meets Kristian 'Varg' Vikernes (Emory Cohen), a fan of the band and a fellow musician whose actions are even more extreme. With a penchant for burning churches, something that soon attracts the attention of the Norwegian authorities, he becomes an insider in Euronymous's world, setting up a rivalry that will only end one way.
Some will undoubtedly be disgusted by the violent, nihilistic subject matter, but Åkerlund's dead-eyed direction, the film's morbid sense of humour and Culkin's compelling performance is enough to keep you hooked.
Selected release from Fri 29 Mar.