In an industry crammed with anti-hero biopics, Lords of Chaos follows the self-destructive rock star trope while sensationalizing the events that occurred during the black metal movement in Norway. Instead of simplifying the story to tell a more accurate tale of actual events, it adopts the more complex and clunky Hollywood cliché of the anti-hero rockstar who must “confront his own demons” instead of the more interesting story, as happened in real life, of a clash over artistic, philosophical, and personal differences.
Cardboard cutout actors look nothing like their real life counterparts and because none of them have any personality or resemble the original characters in behavior, these interchangeable drones because indistinguishable to the viewer. Blackthorn is reduced into being a mumbling henchman that obeys Varg. Attila is shown for twenty or so seconds while the band record “Funeral Fog” in an almost live setting. Hellhammer is a party monster who is only seen fornicating and briefly congratulating Varg on his deeds. Necrobutcher is shown leaving the band after Dead’s suicide and has no other important role. Even Euronymous’ little sister is seen more than most of these individuals and she probably didn’t even exist and has no actual importance to the plot but is there to paint Euronymous in a positive light. Only Attila, who is portrayed by his son, has unique enough mannerisms to both distinguish him and express personality, offering the only piece of good acting in this movie.
The sets shot in Oslo and Budapest resemble the many photos taken during the time and respects the surroundings that inspired a lot of the great music of the time. Lush forests and old granges work with a sincere representation of what Helvete possibly looked to paint the world these musicians lived in while also showing a lot of the “historical” places and doing a good job of recreating the more iconic photos that are eternally associated with the scene. The music of Tangerine Dream, Sodom, Mayhem and others is rarely heard but is used to great effect throughout the whole movie. The overall acting is terrible and none of the actors have probably ever listened to black metal or even tried to understand it as seen by Rory Culkin’s overly American performance and the lack of passion that is too evident in regards to black metal. Emory Cohen was chosen for the role possibly to humiliate Varg as he is completely lifeless throughout the whole ordeal.
None of the motives of any of the characters are explained and the plot makes no effort in uniting all these disparate events under a cohesive narrative. The film randomly depicts Faust murdering a gay man who flirts with him at a park but instead of trying to weave the well documented segment with the rest of the film, the director shows a young man unsure about his feelings and who lashes out at the man out of confusion and strongly hinting that Eithun was a closeted homosexual. The stabbing is depicted as being slow and unfocused while the autopsy indicated that the man was stabbed 37 times consecutively. Rather than following the popular mantra that all homophobic attacks are perpetrated by frustrated homosexuals, Akerlund could have chosen various other reasons forwarded by Faust himself or the other in the scene which ranged from an obsession with evil, a fascination with serial killers or just an impulse killing.
The story’s central point should have been Dead’s death and how it affected the mentality both in Mayhem and the rest of the black metal movement to create such powerful music but the director preferred to divide the movie into two uneven parts with the first path detailing some of the events up to Dead’s death and the second part on Varg’s and Euronymous’ relationship. The sudden change in theme is poorly executed and both segments are only connected by the funniest scene in the whole movie. Euronymous is sitting besides his girlfriend while mourning over his supposed friend’s shotgun suicide. He feels remorse in the most cliché Hollywood way possible for a man that he grew to hate in real life and by all accounts did not consider him a friend. A forgotten theme that was so essential in trying to capture the aura of what happened is how no one really cared for anyone’s life and that most of the musicians moved on without any issues from both deaths.
The first part shows Mayhem as a fun loving rock n’ roll band with impressive parties full of alcohol, sex, guns, Dead threatening people with garden tools (why would Dead be at a party?) and Varg clumsily knocking a few beers out of Euronymous’ hand (he lived around 500km away, why would he be at the party?). Dead’s depression is barely shown and he is mainly depicted as being a flashy and eccentric showman with a penchant for the overly dramatic. The concert is also another hilarious highlight. The actors perform to the demo version of “Freezing Moon” in front of a large crowd that has the fictitious love interest of our protagonist smiling while the crowd cheers for Dead’s antics and decide to taste the pig’s head thrown by the great singer. Dead’s suicide happens just before his father calls him to announce good news which probably never happened in real life but is another idiotic detail added in to create a cheesy sob story.
As soon as Dead dies, Varg transforms from the nerdy vegetarian, Nazi outsider to a mega rock star that fornicates with multitudes of women one after the other and gains everyone’s respect overnight thanks to the release of his initial LP. This sets the scene for the power struggle that would dominate the rest of the movie. In real life a lot of the details become fuzzy with various contradicting accounts but one thing that remains certain are the motivations behind Varg’s church arsons that can be found on his website, his Youtube channel Thulean Perspective and many other sources. The film makes it sound like Varg took Oystein’s word far too seriously and was too much of a psychopath to distinguish the difference between talk and reality. Eventually the movie settles on the opinion that as much as Euronymous craved evil he was essentially a passive bystander that pushed his cohorts to do these deeds and got scared once police attention spiraled out of control while ironically maintaining a belief that he and Mayhem would eventually become huge rock stars with millions of fans. Vikernes embodies the leftist fantasy of the basement dwelling Nazi. A musically talented loser that evolves into a lunatic who takes a fantasy far too seriously and sets out to kill his old friend out of anger as soon as that old friend decides to cut ties with him setting of his paranoia. Akerlund is possibly mentally retarded to have chosen this point as what he wanted to ultimately express from this movie. Both characters have been murdered and the magic and evil surrounding Norwegian Black metal are completely lost.
The aesthetics in regards to the clothing, setting and music were the highlights and showed that a lot of work was put together in creating this piece. It is unfortunately completely betrayed by the lack of a narrative or a coherent plot. Caricatured character development is favored at the expense of retelling as faithfully as possible what actually happened while the most important aspect being the creation of the music is completely ignored and is not even mentioned once. This is just a “dark” rock n’ roll movie that fails to see what black metal is and ends up being a comedy as evidenced by Varg drinking some chocolate milk before killing Euronymous. If you want cheap laughs at a story that has been told far too many times by much better sources a single viewing with good friends is amply sufficient, if not stay far away from this movie and ignore until the hype eventually fades away once and for all.