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‘Until the Light Takes Us’ Director: ‘Our Goal Was to Recreate the Feeling’

Jessica Rosen

If you missed the black metal historical documentary ‘Until the Light Takes Us’ — which featured notorious musicians like Gylve ‘Fenriz’ Nagell, Varg ‘Count Grishnackh’ Vikernes, Jan Axel ‘Hellhammer’ Blomberg and Kjetil ‘Frost’ Haraldstad — when it enjoyed a 20-week theatrical run, your day just got a little darker. The DVD will be released on Sept. 28 in a standard, single-disc configuration, a limited two-disc edition, a Blu-ray version and as a digital download.

‘Until the Light Takes Us’ grossed $130,000 during its theatrical run, which might seem healthy to the outside observer. But it wasn’t like cash rained down on filmmakers Audrey Ewell and Aaron Aites for their labor of love. “The film did well theatrically, especially for an independent documentary about a subject that many thought would be too niche to succeed in a time when so many films are failing at the box office,” Ewell told Noisecreep. “The theatrical release had a separate budget from the production budget, and yes, the people who put up that budget did make their money back and a little extra. We the filmmakers didn’t see any of that of course.”

Even though she and her partner didn’t see much in the way of profit on the theater run, they were able to exercise some creative control. “I think what I liked most about the theatrical release was the amount of control we had over it and how involved the fans got,” Ewell said. “Since we went with a theatrical service deal with Variance Films, instead of a traditional distribution deal, we had a lot of input into how the release was handled. Which meant that we got to nix ideas involving terrible posters or images. One person at one company suggested we take a photo of random guys in robes holding guitars in front of a burning church — denied! It was a lot of work, but it let us stay really involved with our audience and do the release just how we wanted to.”

For hardcore black metal snobs, documentarians making a film black metal itself is perceived as a affront to the genre, which desires to remains so underground that it eats dirt. The fact that the film made $130,000 is probably akin to ‘selling out.’ As a result, Ewell and Aites were besieged with negative criticism. “I can’t tell you how many hate letters we got from people before they’d seen the film,” Ewell said. “But we got just as many letters from people who had just seen it, saying, ‘I thought I would hate this movie, but loved it.’ People want to protect a thing that they care about, but the irony is really clear there.

“It’s way way way too late. It was too late before we’d started to film. That’s a point that Fenriz makes pretty well in the film. One goal we had with the film, was to recreate the feeling of the early days, to situate black metal back into the context of where it started, and to show the process of change. Some people don’t get it, but a lot do, and we’re very happy with the result.

All DVD collectors consider the extras a key reason for owning a DVD, and extras are “something we’ve got in droves,” Ewell said. “We left Norway with over 350 hours of footage. We’ve included lots of deleted scenes, including people and bands that didn’t make it into the final cut, like Ivar and Grutle from Enlsaved, Necrobutcher, Nocturno Culto and more, with the others like Immortal and Garm.”

The directors’ favorite odds and sods? A ‘lecture’ that Fenriz gives in a university, with four moving chalkboards, on the history of black metal bands; who led to what, who was obviously listening to whom. “Our editor was so interested that he actually took notes while we edited this,” Ewell said. “Classic. I like to think of metalheads all over the country sitting down with a notebook and pen and hitting play. But it’s also cool because you just see Fenriz’s love for music.”

The directors may be working on a music documentary in the future and they are also actively working on a horror/sci-fi flick called ‘The Egg.’ Somehow I think it’s not as terrifying as the black metal scene can be.

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