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Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky, 2004)


    Popular rock music has always been something of a multimedia product, since image is so intrinsically tied into the success of most recording artists. One side effect of this symbiotic relationship is the emergence of the rock film, which has more often produced disastrous results than genius. If Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, the new documentary by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, canít be called genius, thereís no denying the successfulness of its approach. The film effectively strips down the bandís macho image, revealing them to be both more sensitive and more guarded than their boisterous onstage personas would have one believe. The hook here is that the band, which has recently lost a member due to a creative dispute, has taken on a psychiatrist in an effort to eradicate the negative energy that exists between the bandmates. This decision results in an atmosphere that is considerably more confessional and confrontational than in the usual backstage film. Berlinger and Sinofsky had previously been given rights to the band's music for their docuementary Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, which suggests there exists an artistic respect between them and their subjects. Judging by the access that the filmmakers have, they have clearly gained Metallica's trust. As they trace the epic recording process of Metallicaís ďSt. AngerĒ album, the movie simultaneously documents the maturation of the heavy metal supergroup. One of Some Kind of Monster's prime concerns is the question of whether or not the band can continue to create their brand of aggressive rock without endangering their new, straight-laced lives, which suddenly include familial obligations. 


    Metallica: Some Kind of Monster will indubitably appeal more to fans of the band than the uninitiated, since it gives a rare amount of access to their creative process. Still, because of that unexpected level of intimacy, it will likely hold the interest of even those with no interest in heavy metal bands. The squabbles that Metallica engages in frequently concern the creative control of the band, and that struggle for power within a collective gives the movie a more universal theme to chase after. The directors explore the bandís troubled past and turbulent present in an attempt to understand the egos at play. The movie does an excellent job of presenting the distinct personalities that make up the band, and when they clash, dramatic moments and delays in the recording process are sure to follow. As the recording sessions stretch into their second year, and the movie moves well into its second hour, the proceedings take on a suitably epic feel, the reactions of the members of Metallica to stressful situations become familiar, and the advice of their $40,000 a month psychiatrist begins to feel increasingly suspect. Itís a bit disappointing that the true roots of the bandís problems never come to the fore. The group therapy sessions they undergo remain almost exclusively focused on the bandís dynamics, with most of their personal demons being glossed over. Itís an understandable omission, and difficult to hold as a flaw, since the documentary does indeed provide nearly unprecedented access into a dysfunctional bandís damage control system.




Jeremy Heilman