Until the Light Takes Us

Reviewing Frederick Wiseman’s “La Danse,” a few weeks ago, I talked about objectivity in documentaries.  The subject of objectivity came up again when I spoke with directors Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell about their new documentary “Until the Light Takes Us.”

Aaron explained to me, “I think the purpose of art, the purpose of film, is to encourage people to think as opposed to telling them what to think…to encourage people to see things that they might not see and then think about them and we try, through the art we create, to give people the opportunity to see something they may have missed.”

“Until the Light Takes Us” explores the culture of Norwegian Black Metal music. On the outside the Black Metal scene seems to involve long hair, black leather, corpse paint, tattoes, and piercings.   The documentary’s in depth look reveals that the Black Metal members are committed to being counter culture and are not interested in their music becoming popular and turned into a commodity.  They also favor a return to Norwegian culture which they feel has been supplanted by Christianity and globalization.

Concerning the members of the Black Metal scene Audrey pointed out that, “They made a lot of statements…that were geared specifically toward making their records (less than main stream).  They talked about Satanism.  They talked about advocating drug use…nationalism and Nazism and basically anything they could come up with that would be abhorrent to main stream culture…what stuck was Satanism.”

The documentary makes the case that linking Black Metal to Satanism was used unfairly by the media in reporting the actual practice of Black Metal members burning down churches.  Audrey explained that during “The early nineties when this scene (Black Metal) was really gaining steam was also the time where, in Norway, American culture and globalization were really starting to get a foot hold.   So, you were starting to see McDonald’s and 7-Elevens and MTV and American movies and all this American culture coming into the country.  It very much harkens back to the cultural imperialism of Christianity.  It’s a very symbolic and metaphorical connection and likewise a very symbolic and metaphorical action that they took (burning down churches).  I don’t think you can really blame people for not making that connection either.  You know saying that burning down a church was in some way a result of their (Black Metal culture’s) feelings about globalization.  I mean that’s less obvious than (simply blaming) Satanism.”

When I asked Aaron and Audrey if they thought burning down churches was a legitimate way to express oneself Audrey told me, “Something that’s important to us as filmmakers is to give information to the audience and then to let the audience work through that and come to their own conclusions.  These guys do actually make a case which might be surprising to a lot of people that there’s actually a rational behind some of this stuff that makes sense.  Now whether or not the actions are justified is something for people to think about.  Probably most people are going to come to a “no” on that one.”

“Until the Light Takes Us” opens at Cinema Village on December 4.

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on November 27, 2009, in Documentary. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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