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Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

The film that redefines group therapy 

Year: 2004 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

The film touted as being "Three years in the making" charts the ups and downs of the most successful heavy metal band in history through their most difficult times. Originally intended as a promotional film for their new album, the film in fact shows the band at their most vulnerable and, despite the fact that they make "squillions of dollars", all three members are very unhappy.

Metallica formed in the Bay Area of California in around 1981 and after the release of their self titled album (later called 'The Black Album') in 1991, they were the biggest heavy metal band on the planet. Their meteoric rise was, of course, followed by a meteoric fall. Starting with drummer Lars Ulrich's personal battle with Internet file sharing company Napster, the band met with disaster after disaster; bassist Jason Newstead left to pursue his own projects and singer and rhythm guitarist James Hetfield dropped back into alcoholism.

The film covers three years of the life of Metallica, showing the recording of their album St. Anger, the rehabilitation of Hetfield, his therapy along with that of Ulrich and lead guitarist Kirk Hammet. While Ulrich is convinced the band will have to split up, and Hetfield is abusive and fuelled by alcohol, Hammet just watches serenely from the side. The film manages to show the hard rockers in a surprisingly sensitive light, whilst still retaining the "rockumentary" feel. All three members are clearly fairly emotionally brittle, and twenty years worth of grief and tension is shown in the two and a half hours the film takes to unfold. One of the most poignant moments of the film comes when Ulrich, at the insistence of his  therapist, meets Dave Mustaine - Metallica's original lead guitarist, whom Ulrich, Hetfield and original bassist Cliff Burton (who died in a tour bus crash in 1986) fired for his drug addiction in 1983.

The film is eminently watchable, as the very human problems of the rock stars are brought under close scrutiny, and indeed the film is just as suitable for non-fans as it is for die hards.

Charles Tomlinson

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Screenings of this film:

2004/2005 Spring Term (35mm)