Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Movie Review: Metal - A Headbanger's Journey (2005)


Anthropology and heavy metal music are two subjects that rarely make it into the same sentence; but this does not deter anthropologist, heavy metal fan and documentary film-maker Sam Dunn. He sets out on a journey to better understand the history, evolution and global reach of his favourite music.

The result is an entertaining, well-made and thoughtful examination of heavy metal.

Dunn, from Victoria, British Columbia, traces metal's origins and its branching out into the numerous sub-genres exemplified by countless bands. Through interviews with band members old and new and fans world-wide, he examines metal's cultural influence, social and gender issues, battles with censorship, and links to satanism and violence. A particular highlight, unfortunately short, is Dunn's exploration of the direct links between classical music and heavy metal.

The first half of Metal - A Headbanger's Journey is crisp, sharp and funny. The second half gets lost in a couple of segments that are too long, in particular an unnecessarily drawn-out journey to Norway to explore criminals linked to extreme metal bands.

The highlights are undoubtedly the elegantly edited interviews with metal icons. The interviews with Dee Snider of Twisted Sister and Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead are both smart and entertaining, and the DVD includes a second disc with extended interviews that did not make it into the documentary.

Dunn is not afraid to insert himself straight into the culture that he's documenting -- his continued obsession with metal forms an endearing thread throughout the movie, to the point that we sympathize with his awkwardness when he sits down to interview Bruce Dickinson, his boyhood idol. We also laugh with him as he reveals his boyhood enthrallment with cartoonish blood-soaked lyrics.

Metal - A Headbanger's Journey is a clever examination of a cultural phenomenon that is as powerful as it is misunderstood.







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