As his success increases and his touring regimen amps up (every so often a counter of the number of shows he’s DJ’d over the past few years appears on-screen), the camera shows how the stress begins to take its toll on Bergling. By the time he releases the first single from his album True, the monstrous hit “Wake Me Up” featuring vocals from Aloe Blacc, his drinking to quell his nerves have increased drastically, and he begins looking a shell of his former self.
Soon enough, Bergling ends up in the hospital due to his relentless touring — a lifestyle that proves to be perhaps more grueling than glamorous. Even after rupturing his appendix and gallbladder, Bergling releases himself from his doctor’s care to fulfill his touring obligations. But his pain, both physical and psychological, continues to mount.
“…the camera shows how the stress begins to take its toll on Bergling.”
While the filmmaker does show moments of true happiness — most notably when Bergling is in the studio making his music or relaxing with friends — there are always wolves at his door pushing him to keep the tour and the party going. Thus, it’s no surprise that in 2018, after 813 punishing shows in some six years, Bergling — in a fight for his life really — decides to make a change. Haggard and spent, he remarks that he didn’t remember what home (was). “I got to a point where I didn’t like (touring) anymore. F**k it, I’m gonna quit.” And after a few last concerts demanded by the vampires of the industry, the film shows Bergling retreating to a quiet beach in Madagascar where he remarks rather wryly that, “I don’t really have a plan.” And, after eight years of going nonstop, this feels refreshingly right.
All in all, Avicii: True Stories is a both an inspiring and pretty harrowing ride. While Bergling’s tale may not be entirely new, he was indisputably an incredible talent. The fact that the filmmakers were able to secure such intimate access to him over some successive years is quite impressive and allows the narrative to almost function in real time. The major hiccup in the doc is that it ends in 2016 with a title card announcing that Avicii is working on a new album — when in fact we now know that he died by suicide in 2018. Sadly his demons didn’t perish when he decided to cease touring. Thus, a critical part of Bergling/Avicii’ story remains untold and unexplored. Nonetheless, for fans of Avicii, house music, and music documentaries in general, Avicii: True Stories is well worth viewing; a portrait of an incredibly talented artist who “captured lightning in a bottle “ time and again during his tragically short life.
Avicii: True Stories (2018) Written and directed by Levan Tsikurishvili. Featuring Avicii, David Guetta, Tiësto, Wyclef Jean, Nile Rodgers, and Chris Martin.
6 out of 10 stars