Darkthrone's Fenriz doing what he does best...talk
The story behind the rise and eventual fall of the Norwegian black metal scene from the early Ď90ís is a fascinating one, and one thatís been recounted many times, with the most notable and controversial being Michael Moynihan and Didrik SÝderlindís Lords Of Chaos: The Bloody Rise Of The Satanic Metal Underground literary effort from 1998.
In film form, the story has also been told in various ways, including films such as Satan Rides The Media (1998), True Norwegian Black Metal (2007), Black Metal: A Documentary (2007) and Murder Music: A History of Black Metal (2007), all of which attempt to lift the shroud of mystery surrounding the early black metal underground and allow those involved to discuss the ideology behind the cult movement. While attempts have been made to present the black metal scene with some level of insight and intelligence, some have failed to provide anything more than cheap sensationalism, leaving many to feel that the real story has yet to be told. Another to add to the long list of films attempting to unveil the mystery surrounding the Norwegian black metal scene is Until The Light Takes Us, which is a feature full-length film put together by first time directors Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell.
Blistering spoke with both Aites and Ewell about the making of the film, what their motivation was for bringing the story to the big screen and how much of a challenge it was to present the story in a way that hadnít been achieved before now...
Blistering.com: The movie has been around for some time, having been playing in theatres since its initial release in December 2009. With its release, Iím curious as to whether or not youíre surprised by how long the film has managed to retain such an interest for so long?
Audrey Ewell: No. Not really. I know this is going to sound completely arrogant, but I knew that this was going to be the sort of film that would be a bit of a slow burner. So I knew that it was going to stick around for some time. We had the film shown theatrically in the UK way back in March (2010), and we just recently heard back from the press that people are still talking about it over there. So thatís a good thing, and I can only hope that it continues.
Blistering.com: Can you tell me how long it took you guys to put together Until The Light Takes Us?
Aaron Aites: Oh, about 25 years! Weíve been working on it longer than the movement has even existed. Or at least it feels that way! [laughs]
Ewell:We shot for about two years, and before that we did a lot of research, and that in itself took about a year. So it was about three years all up. When we finished up filming and made our way back from Norway, we then had to move cities, so we went from San Francisco to New York. From there, we put together our editing team, found a facility and then set about finding some funding to help finish the film. So all up, that took us another year to achieve. Once that was all sorted out, it took us another couple of years to edit the film together. We came back from Norway with 350 hours of footage, so just the process of logging and digitalizing that footage took us six months alone. So it was a very, very long process.
Blistering.com: I have read some rather mixed reviews, with a cross selection of those who really get something out of it, and those who simply donít warm to it one bit. What sort of reactions have you been getting?
Aites: Well yeah, itís been a bit like that. People seem to either love it or hate it. Personally, I donít read the reviews! [laughs] Not for any cool reason, but mostly because I hate reading bad reviews for it. Itís a strong reaction, because people either love it or hate it. I donít mind that one bit, but the reviews are something that I just ignore.
Blistering.com: The story behind the rise and fall of the Norwegian black metal scene is certainly a fascinating one, and one that I feel really hasnít been told in-depth before. What was your original premise behind making Until The Light Takes Us?
Aites: Well, we wanted to tell the story, and we wanted to go in-depth. But what we wanted to do was have the people who were there, involved and did all that stuff to tell the story themselves. They should be the people who are telling the story. There have been some treatments out there where some people have simply propped them up and given the story some brief video treatment, without speaking to the people who were actually there at the time, or those who were completely removed from doing the things that actually happened at the time. So that was really our one and only goals. We wanted to get to the people who did it, and who were as part of it. And thatís one thing Iím very proud of. If you watch the film, then youíll see Varg Vikernes [Count Grishnackh of Burzum] and Gylve Nagell [Fenriz of Darkthrone] come across on the screen exactly how they are in real life. I wanted to tell the story from the inside out so to speak.
Blistering.com: I get the impression that putting together a film like this wouldnít have been an easy task? Trying to get these people on film and speak openly must have been a bit of a challenge. How much resistance did you come across from those involved?
Aites: Everybody involved was different. Vikernes was very resistant to the idea at the start. From the beginning when we initially started thinking about doing this film, we knew it had to have Vikernes and Nagell involved. If we couldnít get the pair of them involved, we knew that we might as well not do the film. So how long did it take for us to get them onboard?
Ewell: It took us eight months of going back and forth by way of writing letters and corresponding with the pair of them. We were constantly explaining what the film was about, what we were trying to achievement with the film and letting them know just how important it was that they both be involved in it and tell the story from their own perspectives. And even after all that time, Vikernes just kept sending us back these letters essentially saying, ďEven if you were making exactly the kind of film that I could help you make, I still wouldnít be in your movie.Ē So it was a really hard film to make, and very hard to get Vikernes to even hear us out. It was essential to get the pair involved telling the story, and we let them know that we werenít prepared to tell the story if we couldnít get their participation.
In the end, Vikernes finally agreed to meet with us, and he felt that maybe he had mistaken our intents. It was only after speaking to us face to face that he understood that we really were there for the right reasons. It was only during that meeting that he finally agreed to participate. I actually thought that he was very open. There were certain things that he couldnít say for legal reasons, but other than that, he was very forthcoming. Once he was onboard, and we were filming, there was never a case where we found him saying, ďI donít want to answer that question.Ē
Aites: Once Vikernes decided to do it, he really jumped in head first. He was very engaged, and I think it comes through in the film.
Ewell: Vikernesí was very reserved. Even though he agreed to do the film, he has a lot of reserve to him. Once heís engaged with you on a personal level, heís a very open person. But it took a long time for us to reach him on that personal level. But once we did, you can see just how much heís willing to reveal, and talk about the events, and how much those particular events of the past have affected him on a personal level. They really did have had an emotional impact on his life. Getting him on film was a huge thing for us, and you can see the honesty he brings to the film.
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