The members of Metallica stood at a crossroad. The band was feuding. They’d been together for decades, and the key members – guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich – were pretty sure they didn’t want to rock anymore… at least, not with the band mates they’d been rocking alongside for all these years. At the urging of their manager, the band tried therapy, a process that was captured in the brilliant rock documentary Some Kind of Monster. Ten years later, co-director Joe Berlinger looks back at that time, and on the impact of his film, and swears it kept Metallica from breaking up.
Metallica: Some Kind of Monster turns 10 this year, and if you haven’t watched it, you need to rent that through Netflix because it’s one of the best documentaries made in the past decade. Yahoo Movies called on Berlinger with the movie’s anniversary in mind and asked him what he thought his film meant to the band in that fragile moment. The director admits, humbly, that Some Kind of Monster changed how he viewed the importance of the camera, saying, "I thought making a film was about observing. I never thought that the process of making a film could change the outcome of the event." And yet, his doc did change the outcome:
Those guys talk about how the therapy never would have worked if there weren’t cameras around, because they felt like they were talking to each other through the cameras. As they say in this little short, they feel the therapy really saved the band, and they feel like the filmmaking, the process of filmmakers being there while they went through the therapy, helped."
The reason Some Kind of Monster absorbs is because it shows you a side of Metallica you assumed didn’t exist. As a casual fan, I pictured the members of Metallica as these hard-edged, bite-your-head-off metal gods – not the sensitive, uncertain Northern California artists who opened up their damaged souls to Joe Berlinger’s cameras. Like when they argued with their producer Bob Rock and their therapist about the tracks they recently recorded. (The language, as you’d assume, is NSFW.)
At the same time, the documentary captures the pure joy that can happen when you are part of a movement like Metallica, as when the band auditioned potential replacement bassists, and met with the most metal fans in the country:
I can’t recommend Metallica: Some Kind of Monster enough. And if you pick up the 10th Anniversary Blu-ray release of the film, Berlinger says that you’ll get a 25-minute short Metallica: The Monster Lives, which catches up with the band members a decade later to see how they’ve progressed.