It was a year ago today that we learned of the passing of Tim Bergling, who was better known as Avicii. For those of us who loved Avicii’s music and who followed him throughout not only his career but also through his multiple health issues and his widely publicized retirement from touring, the loss of Avicii is one that we have yet to recover from.
On this sad anniversary, I’m thinking about the first time that I watched Avicii: True Stories on Netflix. This documentary, which covered the majority of Avicii’s career — from his rise to his eventual retirement, was released in Europe six months before his death. In the U.S., it was released on Netflix on December 14th, 2018. It’s not always an easy documentary to watch but I recommend it to anyone who loved Avicii’s music or to anyone who is just curious about the pressures that go with being a star.
Featuring interviews with not only Avicii but also his collaborators, the film follows Avicii as he quickly goes from being just being one of the many people posting remixes on online forums to being one of the top and most important DJs in the world. We watch as Avicii maintains a hectic schedule of nonstop touring, often sacrificing both his physical and mental health in the process. Avicii ends up in the hospital, suffering from acute pancreatitis. Later, he again ends up in the hospital, this time to have both his appendix and his gall bladder removed. The film makes no attempt to hide the decadence that goes along with touring but, in its best moments, it also highlights the conflict that arises from having to be both Tim Bergling, an anxious young man who finds a much-needed escape in music, and Avicii, the superstar who has to be on every night.
When we first meet Tim, he seems young and hopeful and enthusiastic. Halfway through the film, an exhaustion starts to creep into his voice and, by the end of the film, he’s become far more world-weary. As we watch Tim struggle with the weight of being Avicii, we’re also aware of the people around him, whose careers and finances are pretty much dependent on making sure that Tim never stops being Avicii, regardless of how much damage it does to him mentally and physically. Throughout it all, one thing remains consistent and that is Tim’s love of music. It’s only when creating and talking about music that Tim seems to be truly happy. It’s his escape from a world that often seems like it’s conspiring to swallow him whole.
The film ends on what should have been a happy note. Tim announces his retirement from touring and the film ends with him, in good spirits, on a beautiful beach. Tim seems like he’s finally found some happiness and a chance at the inner peace that stardom often denied him. Beyond a title card (which was added for the film’s U.S. release), Avicii: True Stories does not deal with Tim’s death but it still haunts every minute of the film. Watching this documentary, it’s impossible not to mourn what the world lost when it lost Tim Bergling. The film stands as both a tribute to his talent and a portrait of a good and likable man struggling to escape his demons.
Tim “Avicii” Bergling, rest in peace.