There is a really good chance you have heard the song “Take on Me” by a-ha in the ‘80s. If you’re my age, there is a good chance you’ve seen that song’s iconic music video where live-action merges with animation. That video has been replicated and parodied, and the song has appeared in numerous commercials and movies. I have always assumed that a-ha were one-hit wonders because of how much I ONLY know that song…I was wrong! Director Thomas Robsahm brings tons of history, personality, and music in a-ha: The Movie (2021).
Stylistically, you can’t make a movie about a-ha and not visually reference the music video that made them famous. Robsahm uses a hybrid sketch animation in the early parts of the documentary, as wel as with the graphics of the film. It helped make me feel like I knew more about this group than I truly did. This choice also helped to illustrate moments from their childhood that he didn’t have footage of, and helped to lend context to the bands’ origin story.
The film is clearly a celebration of their musical catalog. Again, I knew one song – but by the film’s conclusion, I was ready to add their albums to my digital music library. The pacing of their musical career is interesting, as it spends approximately two-thirds of the run time in the ‘80s, and then powers through the ‘90s and 2000s. Part of that ratio is due to the fact that so much of the ‘80s is the band’s foundation and establishment. It is also clear where they found their biggest success – but that isn’t their only success.
The three personalities – Morten Harket, Magne Furuholmen, and Pål Waaktaar-Savoy – of the band are very interesting to explore. They have different takes on the band and each other that Robsahm is able to capture quite candidly. There isn’t any real controversy in the film, and unlike many other band documentaries, there isn’t a sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll throughline. Personalities seem to be the only real conflict amongst the members. It was kind of refreshing to not see the usual downfall of a band is addiction, as so often that seems to be the give-in.
This documentary is definitely one to watch if you are a fan of music or music docs. I found it to be extremely compelling and informative while fostering a love of a band I knew very little about. It’s quite possible that a band you currently love was inspired or influenced by a-ha. Thus, a-ha: The Movie earns the Must See rating.