‘ABBA-The Movie’ hits in Stockholm premiere

By Leif Schulman - Billboard (USA) 14 January 1978


Since Swedish group ABBA made an international breakthrough by winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 with Waterloo, it has established itself as one of the hottest worldwide record-selling teams, working under the guidance of Stig Anderson, of Polar Music.

Sales have topped the 50 million mark but with the group limiting itself to just two major tours not many record buyers have seen the act live. The group has not yet visited the U.S or Japan for live concert performances.

But the hope is that the new film ABBA-The Movie will change this. Originally planned as a short 16-mm documentary of the ABBA tour of Australia, it was finally enlarged to become a full-length semi-documentary. It was shot in Panavision and directed by Lasse Hallström, Swedish TV 2 producer who already had two full-length movies to his credit.

The film is produced by Polar Music International, along with Reg Grundy Productions, Australia, and a premiere here received rapturous acclaim.

The framework is a rather thin story line, concerning an Australian disk jockey (Robert Hughes) who is commissioned to do a special radio in-depth interview with the four ABBA members. He seems always one step behind the fast-moving group and in his efforts to catch up loses his press card, and also runs into trouble with bodyguards. But there is an inevitable happy ending to his quest 

While the movie makes no film history for originality of plot, the main point is ABBA’s stage show and music. From this standpoint, it is an excellent piece of work.

It would be unfair to compare it with Dick Lester’s Beatle films or with “Woodstock,” but it is still one of the most refreshing pop films in recent years. The main part shows ABBA performing in Australia before vast and enthusiastic crowds. They give around 20 hits, plus five new songs, two studio recordings and are featured in “dream” sequences. Four of the new songs are included in the group’s LP ABBA-The Album, which is getting parallel promotion to the movie in various territories.

The sound balance from the live sequences is of an extremely high standard, perhaps sometimes cut a little too loud, but nevertheless outstanding, and for this, credit goes to Michael B. Tretow, who works with the group in the studios.

The film goes way ahead of most pop documentaries, too, on the photography and editing. Lasse Hallström has used advanced technology in some of the scenes and the cutting is skillful and used to increase and pace as well as lift up the music.

Certainly the film gives little new information on ABBA as individuals and fails to emphasize the tough life of a touring band. But it remains a “must” for anyone who has listened to the group or bought one of its records.

© 1978 Billboard. Thanks to Samuel Inglles