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Film / ABBA: The Movie

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ABBA: The Movie is a 1977 film about the Swedish pop group ABBA, directed by Lasse Hallström, who directed most of the group's videos.

It is half a documentary about the band's Australian tour, and half a fictional storyline that concerns the adventures of Ashley Wallace (Robert Hughes), a naïve radio DJ who is assigned by his station's boss to get an in-depth interview with the group. Ashley, who has never done an interview before, is forced to follow the group all over Australia's main cities.

The film's release coincided with the release of ABBA: The Album, the group's fifth studio album, which basically serves as the film's official soundtrack album, with the film featuring many songs from that album as well as many of their earlier hits.note 


This film features examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: In the scene where the band read news articles about them, Björn seems to find some overly-sensationalist reports amusing, even the ones that are basically drooling over Agnetha (his wife, mind you). Even Agnetha herself, at first exasperated for being treated like a sexpot, can't help but react to a report of a man saying "It's really something worth seeing!" with a "Hey, at least I did something for the show, didn't I?"
  • As Himself: Well, of course. ABBA appear as themselves, in addition to their manager, Stig Anderson, who agrees to arrange an interview with the band for Ashley after Ashley has a chance encounter with him.
  • Big Heroic Run: Ashley has to do a lot of these as part of his goal to obtain his interview. Given that ABBA songs are usually playing in the background, they could count as Theme Music Power-Up.
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  • But Now I Must Go: The film ends with ABBA departing Australia after the end of their tour for their home country.
  • Butt-Monkey: Ashley seems unable to catch a break during his quest for an interview.
  • The Cameo: There is a brief scene where a photographer asks ABBA for a picture. The band are surrounded by various international stars that happened to be in Perth at that time and were performing in Australia. They include Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Searchers, The Dubliners, and Alice Cooper.
  • Celeb Crush: After spending a day doing a crash course on all the information he can gather about the band, Ashley seems to develop one of these, as after falling asleep he has a dream about Agnetha and Frida falling for him. (He also dreams that he becomes good friends with Björn and Benny.)
  • Contrived Coincidence: Ashley finally obtains his interview when he steps into an elevator in which ABBA just also happens to be in.
  • Creator Cameo: Director Lasse Hallström appears sitting in the background on a park bench when Ashley is interviewing a man about ABBA.
  • Day in the Life: The film follows ABBA, on tour.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The band have their moments.
    • One of the crowning examples is Agnetha's reaction after discovering that one news headline about the band reads "Agnetha's Bottom Tops Show":
      Agnetha: Oh my God! Don't they have bottoms in Australia?!
    • Then there's her reaction immediately after, as Björn reads the article in question:
      Björn: [reading from the article] "A middle-aged man beside me said, with feeling, 'It's really something worth seeing!'"
      Agnetha: Hey, at least I did something for the show, didn't I!
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage:
    • A brief snippet of "Knowing Me, Knowing You" as well as "Dum Dum Diddle" are heard while Ashley is stuck in a traffic jam; they are presumably coming from the radio of another car.
    • "Ring Ring" appears sung by the members of a girls' ballet class Ashley speaks to for the interview while they are practicing their routines (ABBA's version can be heard in the background, which the children are singing along to).
  • Dirty Old Man: The article talking about Agnetha's bottom mentions that there was a middle-aged man who refered to the visual as "It's really something worth seeing!"
  • Dream Sequence: Ashley at one point dreams about being friends with the band, set to the song "The Name of the Game".
  • Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory: invoked One of the fans Ashley interviews on the street seems to imply that the band took their name from the Bible, mentioning that the words appears there. While there is indeed a title for God as "Abba Father" in the Bible, the name of the band is simply an anagram of the band members' initials.
  • The Ingenue: A rare male example; when Benny reads one newspaper reporting about the band asking for a "kinky bed", he ask what "kinky" means. Then again, this could also be because English isn't his native language.
  • Insistent Terminology: The radio station manager that tasks Ashley with delivering an interview with the band insists that it's not an interview, it's a dialogue, and when Ashley asks if he wants him to do a documentary, he says that it's not a documentary, it's an event.
  • Instrumentals: One of the songs performed in the film is "Intermezzo No. 1", one of the only two instrumental songs in ABBA's catalogue.note  Also, Benny is shown performing some instrumental Swedish traditional songs on piano accordion while backstage.
  • Landing Gear Shot: Shots of an airliner touching down and leaving a runway are shown when ABBA is shown arriving to and departing from Australia, respectively.
  • Life Embellished: The film basically chronicles the routine of ABBA while on tour, only with a fictional storyline about a man assigned to get an interview from them keeping it from being a straight journal film.
  • Manipulative Editing: For a loose definition of "editing": During the scene at the hotel where the band are reading news articles about their shows, Benny finds one headline that he reads as "Agnetha's Bottom Tops Show", which is shown with one of his thumbs close to it. In fact, the headline belonged to a negative review of one of their shows that actually read "Agnetha's Bottom Tops Dull Show", and Benny's thumb is obscuring the word "dull" from it.
  • Ms. Fanservice: The concert segments make it clear that Agnetha and Frida's looks play a big part of the band's act; the "Get on the Carousel"/"I'm a Marionette" segment has them in form-fitting leotards that have them cut very shapely figures, and Frida at points also wears very short shorts (such as in one performance of "Why Did It Have to Be Me?"), leading to some sensationalist headlines hoping for a Wardrobe Malfunction. And that's not even counting the repeated mentions about Agnetha's bottom.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The country song heard playing at the start of the film when Ashley is in the radio studio, "Please Change Your Mind", is a song composed by Björn & Benny in the early 1970s back when they were a duo, and is performed by Nashville Train, a Swedish country band composed of members of ABBA's own backing band.
    • At one point during Ashley's fantasy sequence, he imagines himself inside an Old West saloon with the band. This seems to be a reference to one of the band's early TV appearances as Festfolket, when the band were more of a comedy troupe, which had them appear on an Old West saloon.
  • Non-Actor Vehicle: For ABBA.
  • Paparazzi: The band has to deal with them during their tour. Turns out they have massive levels of press coverage in Australia.
  • Race Against the Clock: Ashley has only a few days while ABBA is on tour to get his interview; to make matters worse for him, his interview has to be published as ABBA is departing Australia, meaning that, even after obtaining the interview just as ABBA is leaving for the airport, he still has to race to his radio station to broadcast it.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: At one point, the band and their manager are shown speaking between themselves backstage in their native Swedish, which is left untranslated.
  • Reluctant Fanservice Girl: Agnetha clearly isn't amused by the brouhaha about her bottom.
  • Silent Snarker: Check out Frida's reactions during the scene where the band read the news headline about Agnetha's bottom; she doesn't say anything, but it's clear from her facial expressions that she's just as fed-up by it as Agnetha.
  • Squee!: Seriously, the sound made by the masses of ABBA fans is Beatlemania-leves of this.
  • Vox Pops: The film has several scenes of Ashley interviewing people on the street asking them about their opinion on ABBA.
  • Wardrobe Malfunction: Discussed by one of the news headlines about their shows the band read, which mentions Frida taking a fall during one gig; it makes a Double Entendre pun about her spilling out of her short shorts from the spill.
  • Who Wears Short Shorts?: Frida's outfit in the "Why Did It Have to Be Me?" number has her in white shorts.

So I say thank you for the music
For giving it to me...


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