In the documentary Supersonic, the Gallagher brothers are heard discussing what is most important for a rock ‘n’ roll band, whether music itself or the mythology that is created around them. Although Noel argued for the artistic material, while Liam enjoyed the news that made them look like the hooligans of rock, the reality is that it’s precisely the merger and the balance of both aspects that makes a group transcend and leave a mark on history.
The plot of Lords of Chaos, the most recent work by Swedish director Jonas Åkerlund (responsible for the underrated Spun), begins with a group of teenagers from Oslo, Norway, led by guitarist and narrator of the film Euronymous (Roy Culkin), with an interest in playing true black metal. Soon, though, we begin to witness that the infamous fame of Mayhem went far beyond the music in question.
That a Swedish young man with self-destructive tendencies (Dead, played by Jack Kilmer) responds to the band’s search for a new vocalist by sending them an envelope with a cassette accompanied by a real crucified mouse, will become just a small indication that these Scandinavian boys were more than ready to take their determination on not being posers and developing the true Norwegian black metal to a whole different level.
It’s precisely the first public performance with Dead as a singer, when Mayhem began to influence the rest of the community, including a fan of Scorpions, a band too soft for their standards, from another Norwegian city (Emory Cohen as Varg), giving them a complete package of music and show — i.e. Dead brutally cutting his arms — hard to forget. Likewise, the eventual suicide of Dead serves as a point of no return, when upon discovering the corpse, Euronymous decides not to immediately call the authorities, instead taking a photo and, consequently, building a sick mythology around the black metal of his country.
Based on the journalistic book Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground, but also on a lot of “lies” as we read at the beginning, Åkerlund’s film has morbid themes, animal cruelty, church burning, misogyny, and certainly brutal sequences of murders. However, equivalent to what Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting did with its young Scottish junkies, or Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas with its Italian-American criminals, Lords of Chaos has an incredibly agile rhythm, a protagonist/narrator who’s inevitably charismatic (Euronymous), and a humor both wonderful and dark.
This is, in the end, the coming-of-age story, or rather coming-of-death, of a group of privileged boys (i.e. at one point Euronymous establishes a record store and a label with the help of his family) that, in a whirlwind of madness but also of the classic ego clash and contradictions typical of immaturity, such as in a key scene, in which the first adult confronting Varg, a journalist, fails to understand that he brags of being a satanist, a pagan and at the same time a Nazi! They made reality a terrifying legend to accompany their musical work.
Like Lords of Chaos, the film Leto, by Kirill Serebrennikov, was presented as part of Los Cabos’ B Side section, dedicated to music and its creators. Similarly based on some real characters as well as many lies, Leto takes us to the Soviet Union during the eighties and follows a group of young people in Leningrad who, influenced by foreign music, try to build their own scene. In the center are the singer and guitarist Mayk Naumenko (Roman Bilyk) and his wife Natasha (Irina Starshenbaum), who eventually meet the talented emergent musician with Asian features Viktor Tsoy (Teo Yoo), to star in a story with romantic overtones.
Leto is, undoubtedly, very valuable as a mere introduction to the music of Tosy and Naumenko, for those of us who didn’t have them on the radar, but also for other stylistic and thematic elements. Leto not only has a narrator who breaks the fourth wall to constantly warn us that what we just saw never really happened, but vibrates with purely visual and musical moments to give weight to the rhythms that influenced the Soviet youth at that time, for example “Psycho Killer” by Talking Heads, “The Passenger” by Iggy Pop, “Perfect Day” by Lou Reed and “All the Young Dudes”, written by David Bowie.
These “music videos” within the film are irresistible, although perhaps the most significant is when Serebrennikov imagines what would have been a rock concert with electric guitars and the audience completely crazy in a repressed Soviet Union. Leto is unique when it exposes the talented young musicians affected by their context, at a time when they could suddenly be recruited for the army or were forced to submit the lyrics of their songs for the people in charge to dictate whether or not it was possible to play them in public (only songs that had a sociopolitical relevance were approved).
They were valuable musicians under the yoke that made them see from afar the rock ‘n’ roll stars that they admired so much… “What will we be able to offer to the English or Americans when they have already listened to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Doors?”