When I talked to the members of ABBA recently during the unofficial first screening of ABBA – The Movie, Björn Ulvaeus told me that he thought most comparisons with the Beatles were nonsense, but that he hoped that ABBA at least had one thing in common with the pop sensation of the sixties: “Their timing was perfect. With the Beatles, everything seemed to come at the right time. Records, books, movies, tours, everything. We are consciously striving for that as well.”
ABBA can be called successful in that aim. The control that Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and manager Stig Anderson are having over ABBA’s artistic and commercial expressions from the beginning until the end, can be sensed every now and then and is sometimes painful for the audience that expresses its hunger for the group by resorting to second-hand ABBAs like Champagne and Brotherhood Of Man during the periods when the quartet doesn’t release any records.
ABBA – The Movie is a confirmation of ABBA’s class. The movie really has everything that a music movie should have: a look behind the scenes, humour and of course good music. The quality of the sound really exceeds everything that has ever been done in this area, including quite successful attempts like Elvis’ That’s The Way It Is and Mad Dogs & Englishmen.
ABBA – The Movie primarily revolves around an open air concert in Sydney, Australia that was in danger of degrading to a failed party, but thanks to the enthusiastic response of the audience and the group’s excellent form of the day transformed into an event that far outshadowed three-quarters of Woodstock (that is to say the movie, not the phenomenon).
Apart from that, ABBA has entrusted the practical part of the movie to someone whom they trusted, director Lasse Hallström, a movie maker of great class and with a renowned reputation in progressive circles, who made the ‘transfer of the year’ three years ago by changing from intellectual movies to promotional films that have contributed so much to ABBA’s worldwide success since then.
Hallström and his team took the opportunity to make a more lenghty product again with a budget that easily exceeded the total budget of his entire oeuvre – the group produced the movie themselves – with both hands by shooting wonderful scenes that describe the atmosphere of a top group on tour without getting into useless details.
You will probably understand that not much can go wrong with ABBA – The Movie, likewise ABBA – The Album, the record that will be released in the beginning of January, from which a couple of appealing tasters (the brilliant single ‘Eagle’!) have been included in this movie. How convenient and especially commercial, is what the critics will say, but what does it matter when the concerning products are good.