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A-ha: The Movie ★★★★



Directed: Thomas Robsahm

Released: May 27, 2022 (UK)

Whether it be film, music or art, our internal creative process isn’t always straightforward. Never mind riffing off fellow artists in seeking respectful common ground to achieve a satisfying end result. As time goes by, an accumulation of minor quibbles and you are suddenly more concerned about upholding one’s legacy, with this unorthodox mindset of the hardships experienced in building upon it further.

Proving worthwhile to maintain a passionate fanbase, even when your own may be showing signs of waning—a great survivor of the 80s. Director Thomas Robsahm delivers a riveting insight into the Norwegian sensation that is A-ha.

Peppered with the now-iconic skilful sketch-animation that vividly brought to life their biggest hit in 1985. Spanned over a four-year filming period, the trio of Morten, Pal and Magne paint an emotional rollercoaster that modestly began in Oslo, where the dancehall domination within Norway’s post-war music scene seemed to suffocate aspiring talent, whilst the bombast of influences like Uriah Heep and Queen marinated in mind.

Transitioning to the ‘living under the poverty line’ days of their London escape as they looked to achieve what was deemed impossible, stumbling on their ideal sound through the immersion of Top Of The Pops and gracing Camden clubs, with our homegrown efforts Soft Cell and The Human League making waves. The two-guitar formula was ditched with a swift incorporation of a keyboard. Before you know it, the instantly recognisable synth-pop brilliance of ‘Take On Me’ is born with the backing of Warner Bros Records, and they are topping the US Billboard charts. The dream was realised but at what cost?

The complexities in how they’re still functioning cohesively, predominantly explored in an absorbing albeit baggy middle act for the uninitiated, are compelling. The murkier politics of the industry presented themselves in an ugly fashion, with a notable dispute with composer John Barry on the superior James Bond theme ‘The Living Daylights’ as they fought for creative control and credits.

With the fighting spilling into their camp in recent years, ultimately hindering the crafting of new songs or an entire album, with a telling MTV Unplugged portion laying bare the toll it takes to be in the same room together. Director Robsahm, in the surveying of these scenes, fittingly amplifies the loneliness in these men, who are slaves to the art form. Underneath the bitterness exuded, they deep down respect the impact they’ve made and the band’s alchemy.

Reinforced by the headstrong women in their lives who are uncompromising in their assessments, suggesting they could all do with shrinks to combat their demons. Individually the band member’s stories are deeply insightful in how they wrestled against the ‘machine’ and the bubble-gum teen pop packaging they periodically succumbed to, alongside detailing the insecurities of such success.

Despite his comfort in handling much of the fame that has collectively greeted them, the harsh critical voice inside frontman Morden’s mind. Adamant he can’t express that vulnerability during a show, with the drive to a venue his only ‘sanctuary’ in recharging the batteries to step out again. A slowed-down interview featuring Pol, with clear anguish on his face being in the public eye, lovingly reminiscing about the stripped-back production of a concert headed by The Doors, wishing he could mirror them in not being so prominent. The startling footage signifies the health risks faced by Magne with his condition of Atrial Fibrillation, as Robsahm captures a close-up of medication for anxiety. It’s a testament to their clear love of music that they persist, perhaps foolishly, through the pain and pressures.

During the runtime of A-ha: The Movie it is implied the band have yet to make their best record. Whilst hardcore fans dream of that day arriving. This fantastically frank documentary to mark their 40th anniversary is a worthy placeholder.

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