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Mistaken For Strangers
A film by Tom Berninger, about The National

While at the London Film Festival I got to see Mistaken For Strangers, a documentary film that follows The National on their world tour after their breakthrough album (for a bigger audience) High Violet in 2012. To Paris, London, Berlin, Warsaw... and Oslo (among other cities and countries).

Named after one of the smash songs off their Boxer album, the film came as a result of singer and front man Matt Berninger inviting his younger brother (with a 9 year difference), Tom as a roadie for the tour. 'Idiot brother', metal-head and amateur horror filmmaker accepts, and brings his video camera with him to make a documentary. Quite a different one, that is. The National, being a serious, dark indie-rock combo. Joy Division meets Americana, sort of, heavily flirting with melancholia. Filmmaker and little brother Tom, on the other side, standing as far from hip indie music as can be. Mistaken For Strangers turns out to be an indeed touching and a very, very funny film. Portraying, in a very special way, a hard working band on tour. However, it is also portraying two very different brothers, obviously of the same blood, but not from the same planet. Tom is both annoying and funny, intentionally or not, but he proves that he is not as dumb as we think. As the tour goes on his nagging, complain, and incompetent as a roadie, not able to get the easiest jobs done, makes everyone lose their mind and temper. He interviews his brother and some of the other band members, coming up with questions not of this world: 'How famous are you?', he asks brother Matt. 'This famous', his brother replies, marking this with some 10 cm with one hand. 'Wow, you're more famous than all of my friends'. 'Who's the fastest guitar player of you?', he asks the Dessner twin brothers. 'How many and which drugs have you been taking?', he asks drummer Bryan Devendorf. 'Do you carry your wallet with you on stage, with your id and all?', he asks bassist Scott Devendorf. All the time dead serious. Or not? Obviously not. Tom stands out as a loser or imbecile, sort of, being the baby brother of a successful rock artist. Even though Tom prefers Rob Halford as a fave star...

Mistaken For Strangers is heart-warmingly cool and hilariously funny. It is a touching documental portrait of the Berninger brothers. It seems like this film brings the brothers closer to each other. The enigmatic and charismatic Matt, with his baritone voice, versus the Beavis and Butt-head-ish wannabe filmmaker Tom. Check out the final scenes where Matt crowd-surfs/crowd-walks his way all through the venue (a trademark of his), until he leaves the entrance doors and returns to the stage, mic cable hanging as a long tail. Brother Tom is there, on the tail, being the security tail man. Proud, and catching a piece of stardom himself.

Highly recommended. It is a different Spinal Tap, a different Anvil! The Story of Anvil, but it's as funny.

Copyright © 2013 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

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