Surely you’ve heard about the sensational new Eurovision film that hit Netflix last month. No?
Let me fill you in.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is an underdog tale of two small-town Icelanders, Lars and Sigrit, who dream of making it into Eurovision. When their dream becomes a reality, we follow their journey through the campiest, glitziest, most theatrical event in Europe’s history and it is joyous.
The Netflix smash hit is rapidly gaining a cult following, but many critics were left unimpressed by this tongue-in-cheek tribute. As a long-standing Eurovision fan (with the added benefit of having an Icelandic family), I will openly admit my bias. If you don’t like it, that’s ok – there’s a good chance you don’t like Eurovision all that much either. Some critics are complaining about that lack of harsh satire, but that’s just not what this film is about. Eurovision Song Contest was clearly made by fans, which is why it comes as no surprise to me that fans appear to be its key demographic.
Granted, the movie is far from perfect. There are several continuity errors in the waypoints are counted, Pierce Brosnan’s ‘Icelandic’ accent sounds like an odd amalgamation of Swedish and Italian, and we’re just expected to buy that Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams are the same age. That said, you cannot deny that Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is a hilarious, fun-filled romp from start to finish.
It would be easy for an American-made movie to opt for an irony-drenched piss-take, where they ridicule the whole concept of Eurovision for 123 minutes, but I’m so glad they didn’t. Instead, what we got was an uplifting homage to everything the contest represents: unity, inclusivity and a shared love of music.
The competition’s more bizarre quirks are still met with considerable satire, but they’re also looked on fondly. Laughs are not often at the characters’ expense. Instead, the movie unleashes a plethora of inside jokes, references and cameos that are extremely satisfying for any long-term fans of the show. There really has been a giant hamster wheel. Everyone really does hate the UK. Fans are well aware that the competition is cheesy and OTT; that’s all part of the fun.
While it might be a little heavy-handed at times, the movie generally does a decent job in representing different countries. Icelandic folklore, for example, is something they get right (elves really are a big thing over there). And then there’s Russia. Dan Stevens’ performance as Alexander Lemtov is easily the best part of the movie. Discarding the evil Russian villain stereotype that we have come to expect from Hollywood, Lemtov is instead likeable, sympathetic and effortlessly charismatic.
“No gay people in Russia,” Lemtov remarks unconvincingly.
Rather than falling back on caricature, the film chooses to make a statement on the difficult position LGBT+ citizens face under Russia’s homophobic regime. Eurovision has become a staple for the LGBT+ community, and so it seems fitting that it is conveyed as a supportive environment where Lemtov’s fellow competitors, like Sigrid or best friend Mita, encourage him to be his true self.
Yes, the film has its pitfalls. The Edinburgh setting made no sense (as the UK would have won the year before) and Lars’ constant buffoonery sometimes made me want Sigrit to just take off with Lemtov. Ultimately, though, this is the story we all need right now; one that speaks of optimism, togetherness and hope. The film’s message is clear throughout: any dream worth having is a dream worth fighting for. And what’s wrong with that?
By Hannah McGreevy