U2 singer Bono, guitarist The Edge and their band mates have let their guard down for a revealing documentary about their creative development and a pivotal career shift 20 years ago.
“From the Sky Down” opened the Toronto International Film Festival on Thursday night, the first time in its 36-year history that the prestigious cinema showcase began with a documentary. The film centers on the band’s renewed sense of purpose as they created the 1991 album “Achtung Baby.”
The Edge and Bono joined director Davis Guggenheim for two screenings of the film, which premieres on Showtime in October.
“We’re very, very protective of our privacy, and especially, our creative process,” Bono told the crowd before the first screening. “Not because we’re that precious, which we are. But more because of that old adage, if you knew what went into the sausage, you wouldn’t eat the sausage.”
Director Guggenheim’s previous credits include the Academy Award-winning “An Inconvenient Truth,” about Al Gore’s global-warming campaign, and “It Might Get Loud,” the guitar dream-team matchup of The Edge, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Jack White of the White Stripes.
The film blends new interviews with archival footage of the Irish rockers in their early days after forming in the mid-1970s and their rise to superstardom in the 1980s with the album “The Joshua Tree.” It also touches on an earlier movie project, “U2: Rattle and Hum,” and the group’s dismay after many critics savaged the concert film, saying the band had been caught up in self-seriousness.
In interviews earlier this year, as the band rehearsed to play the “Achtung Baby” songs at the Glastonbury music festival, the band members acknowledge that they were becoming lost in their own hype.
“We looked like a big, overblown rock band running amok,” Bono says.
Backstage footage reveals friction and tantrums among the band. They look back now and comment on how grim and joyless they came across and feared that they simply weren’t good enough to justify the colossal stadium shows they were selling out.
As the 1990s arrived, U2 went back to the drawing board, experimenting with harder mechanical rhythms influenced by German industrial rock. The result was “Achtung Baby,” whose tunes included “One,” “Mysterious Ways” and “Who’s Gonna to Ride Your Wild Horses.”
“Making `Achtung Baby’ is the reason we’re still here now,” Bono says in the film.
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