The intense scrutiny a mega star endures is part and parcel of the career path they have chosen. Some of us view it as such and dream that we too might live what appears to be ‘the dream’; the underbelly of this beast called Fame is laid bare by a brutally honest Tim Bergling aka Avicii.
If the film maker, Swedish native Levan Tsikurishvili set out to create an atmosphere of uncertainty and unease then he achieved it monumentally. There are moments within even the first minutes of the film that tell you this will not be about the girls and the glamour of huge festivals and fans adulation, but rather the encapsulation of a young man’s life thrust from virtual obscurity by a possessive and power driven manager determined to make Avicii into a global phenomenon.
Avicii comes across on screen as a very young and naive yet brilliantly talented teenager who has one complete passion in life: Music Production. His memories of school and teenage years show a boy driven to perfect sounds and melodies, to write music that was contained all within his own mind, how he managed to put that amazing imagination onto a DAW and make it into the music thousands of people danced to is a process I doubt many could recreate. Where most artists would play a keyboard or guitar and find that idea played out, with Tim it was all contained within his head. It is simply the Avicii way.
The film is separated into three chapters, early years, the difficult years and the end of it all and as all encompassing as it is with Levan being with Tim every day for 4 years, I found that perhaps there were far more questions by the end of the film than what there were answers. Yes we were privy to the all conquering anxiety that filled Tim with dread and stress at every show, the perfectionist at work in a studio forgetting to eat meals that his friend and bodyguard Semi brought in, beseeching him to eat something. The stories from Tim’s own mouth how he felt the utter hopelessness of tour life and the happiness of fans left him nothing but anxious and unfulfilled save for a very few minutes even behind the decks where he was satisfied. The lurking underbelly was always close by and although it wasn’t given a name by Tim within the film one felt that while watching him tour the globe with the team and no Arash (Ash) Pournouri more often than not you drew your own conclusions.
I feel that if Avicii had thrown his former manager under a bus it would have been well justified by the end of the film. The mere fact he does not and leaves it up to the viewer’s opinion says more about the character of Bergling more than anything else. Towards the end after the endless hospitalizations for his pancreatitis, the ruptured appendix and gall bladder that was suggested back on his Australian tour he have removed (he waited until Ultra) you see a gaunt, sunken eyed Bergling wrestling with constant pain and prescription medications including Percocet which left him in a complete state of fog and yet the endless cycle of tour commitments were thrown at him from phone calls and schedules demanding his attendance. Some of the saddest facts of this Avicii branding was a young man unsure of what he could and couldn’t say in an interview because answers were predetermined by management. Again this was slightly touched on but it gave you a sense of someone completely at the mercy of a much more experienced and ruthless company man.
The film makes no mention of the two girls in Tim’s life, the appearance of Bettencourt is pixelated out in a hospital scene which gives me to believe permission to use their time together was not given. Tim does state his 8 months off towards the end was for ‘therapy’ and the prescription drugs of course for pain and anxiety is a classic addiction. The total honesty of Avicii in knowing death was an inevitability should he keep going with his schedule and total hatred of touring he wrote out his letter of retirement and surprisingly sent it to Ash for release. This is where to my thinking again the lines are blurred between artist and manager. He dutiful sent it there first yet there are times in the last chapter of the film that leads you to believe Pornouri had lost his complete control over Bergling yet it’s a veiled reference and only fueled by a late appearance of Ash who contritely says Tim is naive and unable to understand money. It’s a surprising cameo right there and moments after this are the words across the screen of the split between manager and artist.
Do I feel this gave us all what we hoped it would? No I don’t.
Do I think Avicii gave all he was allowed to give without legalities coming into it. Yes I do.
Tim has left quite a lot up to the fan and viewer of this documentary to determine how they think it all went to hell. I also believe that it shows a man still passionate about the music and making it to the best of his ability and his honest belief that it will not end. I do see Tim as a deep thinking, respectful young man who is trying to regain his life and control over it that was ripped away from him in becoming a global brand.
It made me want to sit down and have a deep honest discussion with a man who hates small talk and find out the rest of the story but for now this is all we will get and the music will have to do.
I hope he finds that balance in his life because he knows better than anyone, fame is fleeting.