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Jonas Åkerlund • Director of Lords of Chaos

“Some films that are about real events are made too early”


- We chatted to Swedish director Jonas Åkerlund about Lords of Chaos, which homes in on notorious Norwegian black-metal band Mayhem

Jonas Åkerlund  • Director of Lords of Chaos

With Lords of Chaos [+see also:
film review
interview: Jonas Åkerlund
film profile
, Jonas Åkerlund turns back the clock to the early 1990s to focus on the notorious Norwegian black-metal band Mayhem. The film follows everything from the group’s formation to the murder case that made them more famous than any of their songs. Swedish director Åkerlund was a drummer in a metal band himself, before entering filmmaking via editing and creating a series of distinctive music videos for myriad artists such as Lady Gaga, Queens of the Stone Age, Madonna, Beyoncé and U2. Lords of Chaos is his fifth narrative feature film and is now screening at the Stockholm Film Festival.

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Cineuropa: What made you want to make a film about Mayhem today?
Jonas Åkerlund: It’s a story that I’ve had in the back of my mind since I made my debut film, Spun, in 2002. That’s how long it’s been brewing in my head.

It’s interesting that the film is coming out today because now we see the story in terms of white privilege and toxic masculinity, which may not have been the case just five years ago.
I’ve been thinking about the timing, and how happy I am that I didn’t make this movie ten or 15 years ago, or even five, like you say, for that very reason – but also for other reasons. There is something about it brewing. Some films that are about real events are made too early. It also makes it feel like a long time ago, which really makes me feel old because this happened in my lifetime and some of these guys were my friends, from the same generation.

How did your experience in a band in the 1980s play into the film?
We were kind of a few years ahead of the Norwegian scene depicted in the film. We were black metal, but we were not Norwegian black metal. We were probably inspirations for that Norwegian scene, but I’m not taking any credit for it, because I left the band for filmmaking pretty early on in my life. Editing took over my life, and it was more creative than banging the drums.

Do you think the fact that you were a drummer helped you with editing and filmmaking?
Maybe - I don’t know. It sounds silly, but a lot of people have told me throughout the year that my roles as a drummer and an editor kind of go hand in hand. Maybe there is something in terms of the way I approach it. I’m not going to bore you with technique, but my approach has always been sound first. That’s why music videos really suited me.

Can you explain how you decided on the very distinct musical choices to support the narrative in Lords of Chaos?
This film has three different parts in terms of the music. It has the music by Mayhem that they play in the shows and in the studio. Then there are the songs that the protagonists were listening to at the time. And then I felt I also needed a little emotional push, and so I wanted a score. Therefore, I passed the script to Jónsi, of Sigur Rós, because I’ve done music videos with them, and luckily all three of them were excited about the project.

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