Tim Bergling, you may know, was a world-famous DJ known as Avicii who first became famous when he was just 21. He toured the world, and every night was a party. But wall-to-wall parties and drinks by the trough soon take their toll. Struck down by pancreatitis in part due to excessive drinking, Avicii was crippled with pain and constant health scares. But it wasn’t just his physical health that impaired him. Performing at shows created huge anxiety on a daily basis that just became intolerable. Even after a nice long break, Avicii isn’t any better prepared to keep up the grueling pace. So he makes a decision that takes the world by surprise: he retires from touring. He’s 26, and he’s retiring.
The documentary, by Levan Tsikurishvili, gets very intimate with Avicii. It follows him extensively. The camera knows him well, and Avicii is fairly open with this struggles, although he, and the documentary, like the world, tend to emphasize physical health over mental health. Watching this, it really strikes me how many of these documentaries we’ve seen lately – the overwhelming fame that leads to tragedy. Except this documentary, curiously, doesn’t hint at the tragedy. It ends on a positive, optimistic note – that having retired from touring, Avicii is free to continue making music, which clearly does make him happy, on his own time, at his own pace, without the crippling anxiety. We saw goodbye to him on a tropical island, enjoying a sun-filled vacation.
But Avicii doesn’t get this happy ending. He died 8 months ago, of wounds self-inflicted with a broken wine bottle. So it breaks my heart because he hoped and believed that retirement was the answer, and it turned out not to be. And now he’s just another illustration of depression having such far-reaching fingers that even the rich and famous are not immune. And though this documentary came out after his death and had every opportunity to speak towards mental health, it mostly chooses not to, not even acknowledging its subject’s death. It’s a weird, unsettling choice that casts a shadow over the documentary’s authenticity.