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Review: Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

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Though HerCanberra’s arts writer Heather Wallace couldn’t attend Eurovision in Rotterdam this year, she’s found the next best thing…

I will forever hold it against 2020 that Iceland was not able to win Eurovision this year.

There is little doubt their charming, singable and downright PERFECT song Think About Things would have triumphed if countries had competed as normal. And I should have been in the audience cheering them on.

The contest was to be held in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, a city I love and have friends in. Not only that, my magical adventure was going to take me to Iceland and Edinburgh. To say I’d looked forward to this trip is as much of an understatement as saying 2020 has been a bit difficult.

Little did I expect that actor Will Ferrell would take me Icelandic fjords, Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and the glory that is Eurovision in his film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.

Dropping on Netflix at the end of June, it’s a much-needed delight and escape. Struggling Icelandic singer Lars (Will Ferrell) performs in his hometown’s local club alongside best friend Sigrit (Rachel McAdams). Lars became obsessed with Eurovision in 1974, after seeing ABBA’s winning Waterloo performance.

In 2020, after decades of being ridiculed by his father (Pierce Brosnan, proving that a film featuring an ABBA song can’t be made in Europe without him), he and Sigrit have the chance to perform as Fire Saga in Iceland’s national competition.

A series of unforeseen events has the hapless duo chosen as the winning entrant and whisked off to Edinburgh to compete as Iceland’s Eurovision representative. Here, Lars’s tunnel vision threatens his lifelong friendship with Sigrit and their chance of delivering a good performance.

I’m not a fan of Ferrell’s overgrown man-child act, and for 85 per cent of the movie I wanted to pour cold water over his head. But just when I was utterly exasperated with Lars, Ferrell would deliver moments that were heartbreaking. In his quieter films, he is poignant and sensitive, and I’d like to see him tone down his antics for more of these.

Rachel McAdams is wonderful as Sigrit, who inexplicably pines for Lars and is the powerhouse behind their partnership. Her singing voice is a blend of her own and Swedish singer, Molly Sandén. McAdams has some wonderfully understated comic moments and is the heart of the film. Sigrit seeks the help of the Huldufólk, supernatural beings from Icelandic folklore. Sometimes called elves, Lars saying he doesn‘t believe in them is an in-joke, given Ferrell‘s previous role of Buddy the Elf.

As good as McAdams is, the film’s standout is Dan Stevens as Alexander Lemtov, the Russian favourite tipped to win the contest.

A flamboyant alpha male (his tongue-in-cheek song is Lion of Love), he also manages to be sweet and kind, and can do a killer hair braid! I’m really hoping for a sequel about Lemtov finding true love and singing his shirtless little heart out. Before COVID-19 locked the world down, Stevens was meant to record the songs to blend his voice with that of opera singer Erik Mjönes. Instead, those deep vocals are Mjönes alone.

The film’s best moment is the ‘songalong’ of all the contestants at Lemtov’s private palace. It becomes a fun game of spotting Eurovision winners, who belt out covers of pop favourites.

That Ferrell doesn’t try to be the main attraction and lets the other performers shine is a testament to how much he himself loves Eurovision. He became a fan after watching it with his Swedish wife.

It’s not a perfect film by any means. There is much suspension of disbelief, particularly around Lars and Sigrit’s ages. If they watched ABBA win in 1974 as children they’d be in their early fifties and late forties respectively. Ferrell looks the right age but McAdams clearly isn’t. Also for Edinburgh to be hosting Eurovision the UK must have won the previous year. That’s the most unlikely plot point of all, never mind the appearance of elves and a ghost.

Despite those nit pickings, it is a fun way to spend an evening. Approach it like you would a normal Eurovision competition—take a swig of your favourite beverages any time there’s a:

  • Man in a hamster wheel
  • Piano on fire
  • Violin performance
  • Lion
  • Performer’s shirt ripped off (thanks, Dan Stevens!)
  • Snarky comment by Graham Norton

Even though I couldn’t enjoy my beloved Eurovision in 2020 this silly, heartfelt film made sing to myself a little bit louder. So I recommend it for anyone wanting a jaunt away from everyday life.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is available on Netflix.

There were some very good entries for Eurovision this year that are worth checking out, as well as my favourite past winner, Måns Zelmerlöw, performing a special version of Heroes in his garden.

Feature image via Facebook

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