Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Anvil are real, I think

Anvil! The Story of Anvil is partly a 'real' Spinal Tap: the disastrous tour and album promotion, the intense relationship between the band's two frontmen, in the eighties they even looked like Spinal Tap. It goes a lot deeper than Spinal Tap though, it's about people still trying to 'follow their dream' after thirty years of being knocked back. It's being sold as an 'inspirational fable' rather than a documentary about metal and it's true that the music is only the background to a story about human endeavour. The sheer amount of bare emotion wears you down into actually wanting them to succeed. There are moments when they seem as dumb as their fictional counterparts, but the film is always with them and never looks down. It's a documentary that stays on the level of its subjects rather than laughing at them. Of course the film itself has been a huge success for them, making the whole thing weirdly metafictional. I'm waiting for the film about the film.

It confuses me, though, when a documentary is called a 'masterpiece.' The crew can only film what is real and put in the front of them. The subjects rely on the crew to portray them in the right way. It can't (or shouldn't) be written or orchestrated. So who should take the credit for the 'masterpiece'? How can reality be a 'masterpiece'? I don't know.


  1. A portrait is only a portrait, and yet...

  2. I think a documentary is a masterpiece when the filmmakers have unending respect for their subjects, unprecedented access to their lives, just the right chemistry between crew and subject, and a whole lotta luck.

    In 3 years of filming them, Anvil let us shoot things most people wouldn't show their own families. We bonded with them and they trusted us. After a while we weren't guys with cameras, we were just part of their environment, like furniture.

    Making a great doc takes total commitment and passion from everyone involved.

    I'm glad you liked it.

  3. Thanks for the comments. I agree that a masterpiece comes from a good relationship with the subjects. If the crew gets shut out then we'd just be watching closed doors. I was impressed how, like you said, the band let you shoot everything.

    And editing. After three years there must have been a massive pile of footage. Sorting through it and picking out the essential bits, that takes skill.