Rory Culkin is enigmatic as the band’s leader and influencer, Euronymous, awkwardly peering out through stringy black strands of hair with bug eyes and an enigmatic ambition bent on exploiting even the most traumatic events of his young life for the group’s success. Though the film has already received much criticism for the depiction of both extremist anti-Christian views and of graphic violence, the representation of suicide, murder and church burnings is not only essential to the tale but candidly done by director Jonas Åkerlund. Strikingly sincere, the images of death serve as reminders of the true brutality that emerged from a stint that started as a smarting teenage rebellion against hierarchy and all forms of authority alone. Åkerlund’s film is unflinchingly self-aware as moping teens in leather and chains sulk through Norway’s picture perfect towns and streets, yelling to jovial parental voices that they will be back late and egging each other on to try new feats of violence or destruction while hesitantly cowering from engaging in any action.
Varg Vikernes struggles to tell the reporters he has brought to his darkened candlelit lair how exactly Nazism, Paganism and Communism intersect and Euronymous brags unabashedly about violent acts he has no intention of committing before snuggling on a sofa with Ann-Marit played by the sparsely seen Sky Ferreira. There’s an acute understanding of the paroxysmal desire for authenticity and autonomy while having little idea about how to achieve it. This, combined with the toxic power struggle between Euronymous and Varg for ultimate dominance which ultimately leads in the destruction of both, elevate the film beyond the chaotic devilry of exploring teenage rebellion, to a place where at its core, we are given a brazen observation of the ways in which image, influence and power continue to intersect.