The Movie – an entertaining vision of a troubled Norwegian trio

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It is interesting for a European to encounter some of the American critics of this captivating film from co-directors Thomas Robsahm and Aslaug Holm, to “learn” that A-ha are “a unique hit band”.

It is true that the extraordinary series of top 10 hits they enjoyed in Ireland and across Europe in the late 1980s – including Hunting High and Low, The Sun Always Shines on TV, the James Bond theme The Living Daylights and Cry Wolf – didn’t match the over seven million sales of Take on Me or the cultural impact of Steve Barron’s animated video for the song.

However, few records in history can compete with this song. And the band’s first three platinum albums were followed by international hit singles (2006’s Analogue was a top 10 hit in the UK), hugely successful solo projects and subsequent albums, and a world record. Guinness world for the largest paying rock concert audience: 198,000 at the Rock in Rio festival in 1991.

If only the three guys loved each other a little more.

A-ha: The Movie – Official Trailer

At the start of this documentary portrait of Norway’s best-known musical trio, they’re asked about the most dreaded phrase: new material. “I’ve already made a new a-ha record,” says Pål Waaktaar-Savoy, the guitarist and most musically ambitious member of the band. Ageless singer Morten Harket dims slightly: “If we had gone somewhere for three months to make a record, I might have been a believer.”

“No,” comes the rather straightforward response from keyboardist Magne Furuholmen.

“The Movie” takes a bit too long to get to the heart of the matter. There are problems with writing credits and, presumably, money.

As their biographer notes, had they emulated U2 by sharing publishing rights, they might have been happier in the studio.

As it stands, even the band’s official photographer of four decades laments the fact that they just don’t want to be together. Or at least Harket and Furuholmen don’t like being around Waaktaar-Savoy: Furuholmen even opted for 18 months of military service to escape the group in 1994; Harket followed his countryman home to Norway.

Sadly, the movie is far from A-ha’s Some Kind of Monster (Metallica’s cringe-worthy group therapy epic). Despite occasional salty remarks and an awkward scene when Furuholmen and Waaktaar-Savoy ostensibly stand in opposite corners of a shared elevator, the group – who travel separately to the locker rooms – remain too far apart to allow a cathartic moment.

Add to that some individual tendencies – notably Harket’s devastating self-criticism – and we have plenty of intrigue but no confrontation. An entertaining chronicle of “musical differences”, nonetheless brought to life by rotoscoped inserts inspired by Take On Me.

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