Once Upon a Time in Norway: The history of Mayhem and the rise of Norwegian Black Metal is a documentary about the early Black Metal movement in Norway. The film is a collaboration by the following directors: Martin Ledang, Pål Aasdal, Olav Martinius Ilje Lien & Oddbjørn Hofseth. After playing at the Bergen film festival the first edition of the DVD sold out within two weeks – which is encouraging as the film offers “Black Metal fans” something new considering the subject has been hammered to death and cashed in on by photographers, writers, filmmakers….
The documentary is broken up into segments titled: Mayhem, Satan & Politics,Underground, Dead, Euronymous, Helvete etc and features interviews with Manheim (ex-Mayhem), Nocturno Culto (Darkthrone), priest Rolf Rasmussen, Tchort (Carpathian Forest), Anders Odden (Cadaver) and more. They discuss subjects from the infamous murders, church burnings, and the underground scene and what became of it.
What separates this documentary from others is the fact that there is no ulterior motive to glamorize or demonize Black Metal. Once Upon a Time in Norway uncovers the true story as told by the people who were directly involved in the early scene and presents their uncensored and historical opinions, perspectives and anecdotes.
The most interesting and insightful interviewee is Kjetil Manheim (ex Mayhem drummer), he recalls stories in an objective and distanced manner. His interpretations of events are not hazed by image and stature – he simply tells things like they were. I really appreciated being able to hear a side of the story that we’ve never heard or really had access to before. Anyone who has read Lords of Chaos or understands the basic concepts of the roles of the media knows that the media and that book were/are extremely biased and sensationalized and twisted the whole Black Metal ethos into a sideshow of extremist acts and reduced Black Metal to a petty power struggle amongst boys. Through Kjetil’s account it is 100% clear that the actions of a handful of people imposed this whole ideology onto something that was originally about grimness and music. I believe that there is no universal message or standard in Black Metal, and so what Black Metal is to me is not what it means to the hundreds of wrist cutting, long haired, male Dimmu Borgir fans. If they think its about burning churches, killing fags, sacrificing animals and shitting on tombstones then more power to them.
Once Upon a Time in Norway pro-actively moves beyond the heinous exploitation of the music, a nation and the acts of a few self obsessed kids and provides a fair and balanced outlet for the history to be told by those who matter. With two more “Black Metal movies” on the horizon, I doubt either of them will be as informative and as interesting as Once Upon a Time in Norway.
Once Upon a Time in Norway provides a fresh angle on a tired subject. There really is no need to own any other film on the matter, but of course there will be many more exploitative fares, hell probably even a Broadway play at some point. I hope that Once Upon a Time in Norway will set a standard among film makers to stop exploiting the notorious aspects of Norwegian Black Metal. Next to Once Upon a Time in Norway and Nocturno Culto’s The Misanthrope you really don’t need much more. Keep your money and buy some albums for they are what really matters.
The extra features in this set include four extended interviews each with a runtime of about 20 minutes. A 12 page booklet with an article by Roy Kristensen also accompanies this set. Since the first batch sold out incredibly fast I would be making this release a priority purchase.
- Extended Interviews:
- Ted “Nocturno Culto” Skjellum from Darkthrone
- Priest Rolf Rasmussen
- Producer Erik “Pytten” Hundvin
- Terje Vik “Tchort”Schei ex Emperor
- 12 page booklet
Once Upon a Time in Norway is available on Region 2 DVD from Another World.