Akselsen, Fredrik & Falch, Christian (Directors)
When I watch a movie or documentary that I plan to review for Metal-Rules.com, I always read the rolling credits at the end of the movie. I can almost always glean some useful information. In this case, when I viewed the recently released (as of time of writing) DVD copy of BLACKHEARTS, I made an interesting discovery. The movie was actually first shown back in 2012. I had just assumed that it was a new film, because, as I said, the DVD just came out in 2017. I wonder why there was a six-year delay but it is not a precedent we have been already been waiting four years for a North American release of the Icelandic film Malmhaus (Metalheads) movie to come out on DVD and waiting 29 years (!) for a stand-alone copy of THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION PART II-THE METAL YEARS to come out on DVD.
BLACKHEARTS seems to be a documentary filmed across several years and I believe has had several evolutions because there is footage from as late as 2013, even though it was first screened in 2012. These little details are unimportant other than perhaps to demonstrate that documentaries (unlike feature films) are seldom wrapped up and ‘in the can’ on time, on budget and truly finished. Two Norwegian directors, Flach and Akselsen teamed up to create a doc about the lives of three different Metal Black musicians and their eventual pilgrimage to Norway. Each subject is not only a fan of Black Metal but a member of band as we follow Hector of Luciferian (Columbia), Kaiadas of Naer Mataron, (Greece), Sina of From The Vastland (Iran) as well as Arnt and Vegar from Keep Of Kalessin (Norway).
The film is well-shot, well directed, moderately paced and a step well-above a simple talking head interview documentary. The DVD itself is a budget presentation, no booklet, but is loaded with quite a few extras, that I will describe in a moment. For the record it is sub-titled as well but I enjoy reading a good movie.
The plot, for lack of a better term, is essentially what the subjects are willing to do to be a part of a larger, global (but underground) community, namely, to be a fan of Black Metal and the challenges they encounter along the way. You may know that many Black Metal fans make a pilgrimage to Norway to the learn about the origins of the genre and experience firsthand the atmosphere of the nation that spawned the genre. Naer Mataron are trying to get to Blastfest in Bergen and From The Vastlands are trying to get to play at Inferno in Oslo, and Luciferian are just trying to ply at Trondheim Metal Fest. The film follows all of their adventures.
One thing that struck me was how common and accepted Black Metal has become in Norway. Through the films we see some evidence of this. For example there is a museum with a Black Metal room/archive with ‘artifacts’ as they are referred too, on display in glass cases. There is a tour where you can go on a nice bus complete with a tour guide and see various black Metal related locations. At Blastfest in Bergen the mayor of the city actually got onstage and welcomed the crowd, something unthinkable in almost any other city in the world. It is so bizarre because that is the EXACT opposite of what the creators of the genre would have wanted, excessive commercialism and public acceptance. Dead is rolling in his grave.
As a fairly dedicated Black Metal fan, I didn’t see or learn too much material that was new or shocking. It was very well done and interesting but not very revealing. BLACKHEARTS has a lot to offer audiences of underground music film who maybe aren’t familiar with the culture and community of Black Metal and maybe be interested or even shocked to learn that some members of Black Metal bands are Satanists or that they flirt with various political ideologies that are less palatable to the mainstream. It is not really news to Black Metal fans that the vast many of these same fans around the world often experience some sort of persecution by family, the media, the government, the clergy, and law enforcement, just for listening to music. This film gives three solid and very real examples of something has been going on for 20 years, namely the deliberate and attempted suppression of an underground community. These three bands, try to escape to go to Norway where Black Metal is accepted and even embraced. It really is a pilgrimage to an (un)holy land.
The bonus features are all very cool and add great value. You may consider just watching BLACKHEARTS on a streaming or Video On Demand service but by owning the DVD you get about an hour of bonus stuff. For example, there is an extended scene with the band Luciferian performing a Satanic ritual. It was shown very briefly in the film but the entire 30-minute ritual is in the extended features. There is a nice 10-minute interview with Nocturno Culto who seems to be relaxed and in a good mood. There is an interview with Obidian Claw (Arnt) of Keep Of Kalessin as he works out to maintain better health and have a more positive attitude. There are a couple of videos and lastly there was a mini documentary that runs about 17 minutes about a White Metal church in Bogota, Columbia. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the main film but it is an interesting counter-point that in the same tow you have two Black Metal factions both of opposite sides of the religious divide.
BLACKHEARTS warmed my blackheart when I watched this. There are a few moments of humour, a couple of uglier moments and most if it was an unbiased and respectful look at the lives of three dedicated musicians and fans of a musical form that for the mainstream is both repellent and compelling at the same time.