Aug 01, 2021
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REVIEWED: Until the Light Takes Us

TO411 documentary review
by staff writer Daisy Maclean

“Regardless of what your thoughts are on burning down churches and killing people, let’s say, there is something really fascinating about the fact that they saw a problem in the world and they did something.” Audrey Ewell leans forward as she expresses this thought behind their first documentary during an interview at the AFI festival with her co-director Aaron Aites. It’s an astonishing statement to get your head around, but these two directors spent two years living in Oslo in order to understand a musical movement that rocked a nation in the early 90s and permanently impacted the metal scene around the world.

Until the Light Takes Us explores the birth and repercussions of a musical subgenre known as Norwegian black metal, a scene that has been portrayed as an ideological movement, an anti-commercial music scene, an art movement, and a terrorist movement that menaced Norway’s Christian population. Its creation credited to three men, the scene’s socio-political stance spiraled out of control when it was misinterpreted by the media as Satanism, and subsequently drew thousands of young followers for all the wrong reasons. As it grew in popularity a wave of arson, murder, and suicide swept the nation, and what was meant as critique on the loss of Norwegian culture to globalisation, became something much darker. The documentary is an in-depth look at two of the remaining founders: Gylve “Fenriz” Nagell, who continues to make and distribute his music, and Varg “Count Grishnackh” Vikernes, who is currently serving a life sentence for murder and arson.

“It does deal a lot with the politics of identity and of authorship,” continues Ewell. “What happens once you put it out there? And how are things interpreted and re-interpreted. How the context changes the original meaning and I mean the original meaning, it retroactively changes the reality of what occurred.”

Norwegian churches started to be burned in 1991 and around that same time a small group of anti-consumerist metal musicians was forming. The musicians sought to create a sound that couldn’t be sold commercially, preferring to record on the worst equipment available with none of the traditional production polishing. Like some of the best music documentaries, Until the Light Takes Us adopts the values and characteristics of the genre: using out of focus and grainy footage you sometimes have to squint through, abrupt cutting, and shaky handheld shots. Moments that would have traditionally been cut out of an interview or segment are purposefully left in for us to revel in all their awkward messiness. 

The film does begin slowly and inarticulately, taking a long time to get to the heart of the subject, but rest assured it is worth the wait. It is an intelligent, bizarre, and violent story that mixes the high philosophy of art with the utter insanity of hopelessness, intolerance, hatred, and extremism. The result is a compelling piece that questions the mechanism by which history is written. In an age in which information is a button push away, how much of it has been altered and how many of us still believe that 2+2 = 4 ?

***

Until The Light Takes Us has just finished its Canadian theatrical release and will shortly begin its American and British theatrical release. The DVD will be available shortly. Click here for more info.

Daisy Maclean will review recently completed documentaries for TO411 Daily – please contact her for more information: daisy@to411.com. 

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Headline, Industry News

REVIEWED: Until the Light Takes Us

TO411 documentary review
by staff writer Daisy Maclean

“Regardless of what your thoughts are on burning down churches and killing people, let’s say, there is something really fascinating about the fact that they saw a problem in the world and they did something.” Audrey Ewell leans forward as she expresses this thought behind their first documentary during an interview at the AFI festival with her co-director Aaron Aites. It’s an astonishing statement to get your head around, but these two directors spent two years living in Oslo in order to understand a musical movement that rocked a nation in the early 90s and permanently impacted the metal scene around the world.

Until the Light Takes Us explores the birth and repercussions of a musical subgenre known as Norwegian black metal, a scene that has been portrayed as an ideological movement, an anti-commercial music scene, an art movement, and a terrorist movement that menaced Norway’s Christian population. Its creation credited to three men, the scene’s socio-political stance spiraled out of control when it was misinterpreted by the media as Satanism, and subsequently drew thousands of young followers for all the wrong reasons. As it grew in popularity a wave of arson, murder, and suicide swept the nation, and what was meant as critique on the loss of Norwegian culture to globalisation, became something much darker. The documentary is an in-depth look at two of the remaining founders: Gylve “Fenriz” Nagell, who continues to make and distribute his music, and Varg “Count Grishnackh” Vikernes, who is currently serving a life sentence for murder and arson.

“It does deal a lot with the politics of identity and of authorship,” continues Ewell. “What happens once you put it out there? And how are things interpreted and re-interpreted. How the context changes the original meaning and I mean the original meaning, it retroactively changes the reality of what occurred.”

Norwegian churches started to be burned in 1991 and around that same time a small group of anti-consumerist metal musicians was forming. The musicians sought to create a sound that couldn’t be sold commercially, preferring to record on the worst equipment available with none of the traditional production polishing. Like some of the best music documentaries, Until the Light Takes Us adopts the values and characteristics of the genre: using out of focus and grainy footage you sometimes have to squint through, abrupt cutting, and shaky handheld shots. Moments that would have traditionally been cut out of an interview or segment are purposefully left in for us to revel in all their awkward messiness. 

The film does begin slowly and inarticulately, taking a long time to get to the heart of the subject, but rest assured it is worth the wait. It is an intelligent, bizarre, and violent story that mixes the high philosophy of art with the utter insanity of hopelessness, intolerance, hatred, and extremism. The result is a compelling piece that questions the mechanism by which history is written. In an age in which information is a button push away, how much of it has been altered and how many of us still believe that 2+2 = 4 ?

***

Until The Light Takes Us has just finished its Canadian theatrical release and will shortly begin its American and British theatrical release. The DVD will be available shortly. Click here for more info.

Daisy Maclean will review recently completed documentaries for TO411 Daily – please contact her for more information: daisy@to411.com. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Headline, Industry News

REVIEWED: Until the Light Takes Us

TO411 documentary review
by staff writer Daisy Maclean

“Regardless of what your thoughts are on burning down churches and killing people, let’s say, there is something really fascinating about the fact that they saw a problem in the world and they did something.” Audrey Ewell leans forward as she expresses this thought behind their first documentary during an interview at the AFI festival with her co-director Aaron Aites. It’s an astonishing statement to get your head around, but these two directors spent two years living in Oslo in order to understand a musical movement that rocked a nation in the early 90s and permanently impacted the metal scene around the world.

Until the Light Takes Us explores the birth and repercussions of a musical subgenre known as Norwegian black metal, a scene that has been portrayed as an ideological movement, an anti-commercial music scene, an art movement, and a terrorist movement that menaced Norway’s Christian population. Its creation credited to three men, the scene’s socio-political stance spiraled out of control when it was misinterpreted by the media as Satanism, and subsequently drew thousands of young followers for all the wrong reasons. As it grew in popularity a wave of arson, murder, and suicide swept the nation, and what was meant as critique on the loss of Norwegian culture to globalisation, became something much darker. The documentary is an in-depth look at two of the remaining founders: Gylve “Fenriz” Nagell, who continues to make and distribute his music, and Varg “Count Grishnackh” Vikernes, who is currently serving a life sentence for murder and arson.

“It does deal a lot with the politics of identity and of authorship,” continues Ewell. “What happens once you put it out there? And how are things interpreted and re-interpreted. How the context changes the original meaning and I mean the original meaning, it retroactively changes the reality of what occurred.”

Norwegian churches started to be burned in 1991 and around that same time a small group of anti-consumerist metal musicians was forming. The musicians sought to create a sound that couldn’t be sold commercially, preferring to record on the worst equipment available with none of the traditional production polishing. Like some of the best music documentaries, Until the Light Takes Us adopts the values and characteristics of the genre: using out of focus and grainy footage you sometimes have to squint through, abrupt cutting, and shaky handheld shots. Moments that would have traditionally been cut out of an interview or segment are purposefully left in for us to revel in all their awkward messiness. 

The film does begin slowly and inarticulately, taking a long time to get to the heart of the subject, but rest assured it is worth the wait. It is an intelligent, bizarre, and violent story that mixes the high philosophy of art with the utter insanity of hopelessness, intolerance, hatred, and extremism. The result is a compelling piece that questions the mechanism by which history is written. In an age in which information is a button push away, how much of it has been altered and how many of us still believe that 2+2 = 4 ?

***

Until The Light Takes Us has just finished its Canadian theatrical release and will shortly begin its American and British theatrical release. The DVD will be available shortly. Click here for more info.

Daisy Maclean will review recently completed documentaries for TO411 Daily – please contact her for more information: daisy@to411.com. 

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Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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