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What happens when an extreme idea of Norway doesn’t quite live up to the expectations? This question is explored in a humorous new documentary.
Whether you like black metal or not, the genre has had a tremendous appeal for certain segments of the music-loving populations, drawing fans from all over the world. Many of them travel to Norway to experience the music they love and the surroundings in which the songs and the albums were recorded.
The Inferno music festival attracts hordes of metalheads every Easter, while designated sightseeeing buses travel to important landmarks in and around Oslo. In Italy, Norwegian language courses is held for Italians who want to learn what the black metal lyrics really mean.
The new Norwegian documentary, “Blackhearts”, follows three fans from Iran, Greece and Colombia on a kind of pilgrimage to Norway. All three have fantasized about Norway and formed a picture of the country through attentive listening to their favourite records.
“Tourists who come to Norway to experience black metal are called blackpackers”, says the film’s director, Fredrik Horn Akselsen, with a grin.
“Blackhearts” follows the three fans on journeys to Bergen, Oslo and Trondheim. Upon arrival in Norway, their expecations of the black metal scene as extreme doesn’t quite fit with reality. That’s where the humour enters the picture.
“Certain fans have a radical dream about Norway as a kind of occult paradise, a kind of a Mekka for everything that is evil,” explains the director.
“Then they come here, and meet band members who work as teachers or on a sawmill. Their recordings are partly sponsored by the state, and a few of them have even participated in the highly commercial European song contest.”
There’s no denying that the black metal scene indeed had its share of controversy in the early 1990s, when church burnings, murder and suicides made headlines both in Norway and abroad. Today, however, the genre is largely seen as harmless by the establishment. That fact may not be quite as well-known outside Norway.
That’s why the main characters in the documentary are shocked when they attend a black metal festival in Bergen, and the festival is opened by the city’s mayor.
“People who find their passion for black metal in their teens tend to keep that passion. It’s a genre that has sold Norway, or at least an idea of Norway, abroad”.
“Today, however, you won’t find many versions of the radical version of the lifestyle, like connections to Satanism or whatever. Most black metal bands in Norway today really just want to make music, and hopefully make a living doing that”, Akselsen says.
The international premiere for Blackhearts will be during CIMMfest in Chicago April 15th. Tv rights to the movie have been sold to a number of countries.
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