Indie rock darling The National is the subject of a new film, Mistaken for Strangers, which opens this month at the Texas Theatre. It's been called a mockumentary, but after seeing it, that's the last description I'd use.
It's an intimate portrait of The National and a brutally honest look at the relationship between brothers Tom and Matt Berninger. For those unfamiliar, Matt is The National's lead singer. Tom is, well, Tom. He's an aspiring horror movie director, metal head and resident of his parent's basement.
Matt invited Tom to work their European as a roadie. Tom took his camera along to shoot this documentary. He also royally screwed up his tour duties at every turn. But throughout the constant failings, the brothers have a quiet understanding. There's one scene that sums it all up. Tom recounts a late night call he got from Matt. Matt had a dream he was being attacked by scary dream people and out of nowhere here comes Tom with an ax, hacking them all to bloody bits and saving him. Matt knows his brother has his back, no matter what kind of shit Tom pulls.
I got the chance to talk with the Berninger brothers about Mistaken for Strangers. They agree it's not a mockumentary. It can be funny at times, but it's really a portrait of two brothers and their family dynamic. Matt is a famous rock star and Tom isn't. Without giving it all away, how Tom deals with his brother's success, and his lack thereof, is the show.
I ask Tom about his grade Z horror flicks.
"I want to make the scariest horror movie ever," Tom says. I'd love to do a Judas Priest doc if Rob Halford wasn't the JD Salinger of the metal world and utterly unreachable."
He also says he's working on a horror movie script, but it could take a while. After watching the documentary, this will not surprise you.
Next, I ask Matt if he ever wanted to kill his brother? Because a few times I wanted to reach through the screen and at least shake him. You will, too.
"No. He's family," Matt says. "You get the angriest at family but only because you've got the most love for them."
At the end of the film, it seems only fair to assume that Matt won't be asking Tom to join him on tour again anytime soon. And it turns out touring isn't what Tom thought it would be, anyway. He wanted the rock and roll lifestyle and all he got was hard work.
"I hope this film is the beginning of my financial success so I don't need to go on tour," he says. "I want to be a filmmaker."
But Matt feels differently. "I want my brother there," says Matt. "It can be hard on tour and having Tom there grounds me to home, to my life. It keeps me connected."
Mistaken for Strangers is on demand and at the Texas Theatre (231 W Jefferson Blvd) March 28 to April 3. Details at thetexastheatre.com. Tickets $10.
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