Tag Archives: Norwegian

CAPSULE: LORDS OF CHAOS (2018)

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Jonas Åkerlund

FEATURING: Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen, Jack Kilmer, Sky Ferreira, Jon Øigarden, Valter Skarsgård

PLOT: The founder of True Norwegian Black Metal, Euronymous, narrates his rise and fall from beyond the grave in a tale of music, church burning, metal, and marketing.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Lords of Chaos is a well-crafted biopic/docudrama about some very weird people. Graphic suicide and murder notwithstanding, this is an eminently mainstream, straightforward piece of high-quality cinema. Fans of True Norwegian Black Metal will want to upgrade this from a “recommended” to a “” rating.

COMMENTS: Norway: the land of Ski Queen cheese, smiling people in bright sweaters, and True Norwegian Black Metal. For the last of those three things, you can thank “Euronymous” (née Øystein Aarseth), founder of the band Mayhem and, if Lords of Chaos is to be believed, something of a marketing genius. Jonas Åkerlund, no stranger to the metal scene of the late ’80s, brings the dramatic tale of Euronymous’ journey from upper-middle-class rocker bad-boy to tragic murder victim to an English-speaking audience in this docudrama. With a sure touch and an unlikely sense of humor, Åkerlund spins a formidable yarn about some troubled lads spiraling out of control.

From his omnipotent afterlife perch, Øystein (Rory Culkin) narrates his early roots—appropriately subterranean in his parents’ basement. Graduating quickly from the status of inept musicians riding around in their parents Volvos, the metal group Mayhem enjoys a series of lucky breaks accompanied by implied Faustian bargains. They find a frontman, Death (an eerie Jack Kilmer), who rockets them to sub-fame before blasting his brains out. Death’s replacement is even darker: an impressionable, awkward young man named Christian (Emory Cohen), who changes his name to Varg after he buys into the whole death-cult-Satanist-nihilist shtick that Øystein has fabricated. Varg starts burning down churches, and the other band members’ moral fabric disintegrates as a horrible contest of one-upmanship rips them apart. As his vision of commercial glory begins to unravel, Øystein is forced to come to terms with the beast he’s created.

While many films directed by Music Video People obviously show their signature markings, Jonas Åkerlund stays his hand stylistically. His story is about the people behind the image, not a love letter to the presumed madness and evil of True Norwegian Black Metal. On the occasions that he does indulge in his fast-dreamy editing, the effect is that much more striking: Øystein’s recurring daydreams/nightmares of traveling through the woods, looking for his first friend and leading man are unsettling and touching. The music, most of it performed by the (non-Norwegian, non-metal) band Sigur Rós, alternately haunts and pummels. And the acting transforms these aspiring metal caricatures into realistic portraits of young outcasts.

Which brings me to Rory Culkin. Yes, he is from the same brood as the famous (to some of us older types) Macaulay Culkin, but in Lords of Chaos he seems to be channeling a young (carried in no small part by his eyes and his near-constant, “What the Hell is wrong with you people?” tone of voice). Culkin carries this picture. His joyful cynicism is underscored as his post-death montage wraps up, “No. Fuck. Stop this sentimental shit.” Though he may call himself “Euronymous”, Øystein remains Øystein: a cheeky, ambitious nerd with a flair for publicity. Lords of Chaos rubs elbows with the countless musical biopics that have streamed forth from the movie industry since time immemorial. It’s one of the few, though, to capture melodrama, mundanity, and hilarity so capably and with such strong disregard for nostalgia.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Despite Åkerlund’s refusal to lionize these immature kids, ‘Lords of Chaos’ is tremendous fun. Caveat: one must be able to handle severed pig heads, cat torture, and casual Nazism.” –Amy Nicholson, Variety

LIST CANDIDATE: THE BOTHERSOME MAN (2006)

Den Brysomme Mannen

DIRECTED BY: Jens Lien

FEATURING: Trond Fausa, Petronella Barker, Per Schaanning

PLOT: Andreas Ramsfjell awakens after a suicide attempt to find himself in a seemingly perfect city where he is equipped with the perfect life. Unfortunately for Andreas, it doesn’t take long to discover that something is very much amiss.

Still from The Bothersome Man

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: The Bothersome Man is a masterpiece beyond its weirdness. It’s a film even the normal crew should watch and enjoy. It’s rich with astute and pointed social commentary on our materialistic society and the importance people place on conformity over freedom in life. Not to mention that it’s devilishly funny!

COMMENTS: Many regular readers of the site must have experienced at least once in their life the curious befuddlement of a friend or colleague asking them why they like something different from general tastes. But that’s so weird, they might say. Or, my personal favorite: but surely you prefer [insert the more popular choice here]? The Bothersome Man tackles this ideal as a political, social and religious allegory.

Everything initially seems perfect in the city where Andreas wakes after his suicide. He is given a great job with plenty of start-up capital. He meets a beautiful woman with whom he quickly forms a relationship. Everything is wonderful. And then, the cracks start to show, in a Kafkaesque fashion. His increasing unease leads him to seek out others who might rebel, who wish to get away by any means necessary, be it suicide or more surreptitious means. It’s hard to escape the machine, though; without giving too much away, the pie eating scene, in this sense, is one of the best moments of the film.

The Bothersome Man‘s strong, tight script is well-paced over its 95 minutes. Muted color is used well, presented in such a way as the viewer doesn’t realize it as such until it’s important enough to do so. Jens Lien’s film is an accomplished piece of cinema which, particularly given its haunting and ominous conclusion, is a strong contender for inclusion on the List.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“A surreal nightmare of gleaming surfaces and razor-sharp edges…”-Jeanette Catsoulis, The New York Times (contemporaneous)

(This movie was nominated for review by Tristano, who said it can be “compared to works like Brave New World or Roy Anderssons two last movies.”  Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

CAPSULE: TROLLHUNTER [TROLLJEGEREN] (2010)

DIRECTED BY: André Øvredal

FEATURING: Otto Jespersen, Glenn Erland Tosterud, Johanna Mørck, Tomas Alf Larsen, Urmila Berg-Domaas

PLOT: Three journalism students traipse about the Norwegian countryside following a

mysterious poacher, only to discover he is a government-funded troll hunter trying to contain an outbreak of monsters in the mountains.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Though a troll-themed found footage horror/comedy sounds like a novel concept, for the most part TrollHunter is a straightforward and predictable—and enjoyable—horror flick.

COMMENTS: Building slowly up to its fantastical pay-off and composed of edited footage purportedly sent anonymously to a news station, TrollHunter begins with Thomas (the reporter), Johanna (the sound woman), and Kalle (the rarely-seen camera operator) driving through the Norwegian mountains after suspected bear poacher Hans. There’s something fishy going on with this guy, as evidenced by his strange, solitary habits and tricked-out hunting truck, and they aim to find out exactly what’s up.  When they finally catch up with him, they learn firsthand that he’s an honest-to-goodness troll hunter, employed by the government to protect humans from troll attacks.  An entire troll subculture is explored and explained matter-of-factly; they’re like a typical woodland animal species, only ten times bigger and wholly improbable.  They’ve been breaking out of their contained areas and wreaking havoc lately, so it’s up to Hans and his new camera crew to determine the cause.

Hans’s gruff and fed-up line deliveries coupled with the students’—especially Thomas’s—befuddled reactions make for much of the film’s cheeky comedy, but they rarely elicit big laughs, keeping an understated atmosphere for most of the running time.  Of course, when the actual trolls come into play, action and thrills take precedence.  Director Øvredal makes good use of unseen monsters and intense sound effects, injecting the affair with fear of the unknown more than anything else.  The trolls are well CGI-ed, kept primarily in dark lighting; the effects showcase several different monster designs.  The shaky-cam vérité style can be taxing at points, but overall the first-person camerawork is incorporated effectively.

TrollHunter is the kind of genre mash-up that doesn’t lean to any one side.  Many will think it should be much funnier, or much scarier, or both. Personally, I appreciated its low-key approach.  The story and characters are interesting enough to keep the momentum going, and the gorgeous Scandinavian scenery and multiple gruesome troll bouts are entertaining to the eye.  Some of the specifically Norwegian references are likely lost on outside viewers, but this look into Norwegian folklore is never abstruse or alienating.  For the most part, it’s just fun!

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“With impressive technical credits, stunning fjord and forest locations and a winking ownership of its own absurdity, ‘Trollhunter’ manages to be at once spooky, satirical and endearing.” –Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune (contemporaneous)

CAPSULE: DEAD SNOW [DØD SNØ] (2009)

DIRECTED BY: Tommy Wirkola

FEATURING: Vegar Hoel, Charlotte Frogner, and other professional but fairly interchangable Scandinavian actors

PLOT: Eight medical students travel to a remote ski cabin for a little rest and relaxation,

Still from Dead Snow (2009)

only to find the snowbound retreat is haunted by pesky Nazi zombies.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  If it’s weird, it’s weird in a familiar way.  There’s a powerful “been there, done that” feel here that will satisfy those who just want to have another laugh in the face of the upcoming zombie apocalypse.

COMMENTS:  Despite garnering some minor praise after a successful midnight run at Sundance in 2009, Dead Snow is a derivative and dull affair—until a derivative but no-longer-dull final half hour, when it redeems itself with a nonstop, intestine spewing Nazi zombie slayathon that sweeps away all logical objections in a river of blood.  Even the key conceit of fascists as undead villains is nothing new—see Shock Waves (1977), Zombie Lake (1980), Oasis of the Zombies (1981)—it’s just that it hasn’t been done in quite a while.  The only thing that’s somewhat original about Dead Snow is the setting: I can’t remember a zombie movie that’s been played out in a winter wonderland (to better show the blood splatters on the virgin snow).  The setup seems to drag on forever, with eight medical students driving and hiking to a cabin in the scenic mountains, snowmobiling, listening to Scandinavian pop-metal, playing board games and drinking beer, and all of the time not making much of an impression as characters.  Eventually a grizzled old man from Oslo central casting wanders into the cabin to tell them the backstory about a unit of Nazis who hid some treasure in the region before the locals massacred them with farm implements.  Low-impact deaths of minor characters occasionally lighten the mood.  Dead Snow is a comedy, but mostly in the sense that it doesn’t take itself seriously, not in a way that makes you laugh.  The movie hits every possible horror movie cliche on its way to the final slaughter.  Instead of going to the trouble of thinking up some original Continue reading CAPSULE: DEAD SNOW [DØD SNØ] (2009)