ABBA – The Movie is a bouncy, exuberant pop concert souvenir of ABBA’s autumn 1977 Australian tour and, to date, the only Australian-Swedish co-production. The film is a snapshot of Australia at the time and a record of the Australian public’s extraordinary ABBA-related frenzy.Robert Caswell’s thin plot - a disinterested DJ is told to pursue ABBA for an interview - precludes a concert-only film or much acting from the band members. The film may be an advertisement for ABBA’s music and latest album, but there’s also an entertaining streak of self-deprecation and parody running through it, as if the filmmakers couldn’t quite believe the adulation the band was receiving.
The haphazard filming by a mixed Swedish-Australian crew meant the film had to be patched up in Sweden afterwards and mostly came together during the editing stage. But the ambitious decision to film in Panavision was worth it, and the concert scenes (with vocal and instrumental overdubs in the studios later) are sensational. The key Australian cast of Robert Hughes, Tom Oliver and Bruce Barry are fine, considering the chaotic nature of filming.Prior to this, Hallström had directed Swedish television and one feature, as well as ABBA’s video clips. He shows considerable directorial flair. The tight editing (of Lasse Hallström, Malou Hallström and Ulf Neidemar), and vibrant music and cinematography (of Jack Churchill and Australian Paul Onorato) make ABBA The Movie an altogether successful and sadly underrated rock movie.