“EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: The Story Of Fire Saga”. What joy!

This movie is like a happiness pill. It works instantly.

Karol Barzowski

24 October 2023

I watched this movie on the day when everything felt unbearable. Nothing was as it should be, old problems turned out to be bigger than they seemed, and prospects for improvement were not optimistic. I would have gladly wrapped myself in a blanket and turned into a sadness burrito. However, in such heat, this idea risked dehydration. Instead, I bought beer, turned on Netflix, and started Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. And you know what? For those two hours, I didn’t think about how bad I felt. This movie is like a happiness pill. It works instantly.

The majority of us have watched Eurovision at least once. Everyone has surely heard of it. The musical competition between countries gains enormous viewership every year, not only in Europe but also in places like Australia. Voting results and the anticipation of the famous words “Twelve points go to…” can cause heart palpitations. Besides, it’s a top-notch television production – a visual feast as well. Every performance is meticulously crafted, it’s loud, colorful, and often explosive. Apart from sports, there are few similar events. It’s practically a phenomenon. There are places where the day of the contest is a true celebration. Streets empty, and everyone watches this musical show.

While in recent years the quality of songs in Eurovision has significantly risen, with even globally recognized jazz vocalists (Jamala from Ukraine in 2016) or representatives of alternative genres (Salvador Sobral from Portugal in 2017) winning, the contest was, until recently, synonymous with kitsch. When only viewers voted, the performance mattered more than the song – lights, pyrotechnics, dancers, extravagant costumes. On the Eurovision stage, we’ve seen pirates, Vikings, Russian grandmothers, monsters, cabaret performers, drag queens, Genghis Khan, a turkey, and, of course, Verka Serduchka. This new Netflix film refers to those times. After all, it’s a 100% comedy. A Russian singer singing among half-naked companions about being the lion of love fits perfectly into this convention. And one of the performances by the titular group surpasses everything we could have seen on Eurovision – during those three minutes, you’ll probably be wide-eyed with amazement every moment. A lot happens.

The Icelandic group Fire Saga, selected to represent their country in peculiar circumstances, consists of Lars and Sigrit. Lars’ mother died when he was young, and he was pulled out of apathy by ABBA, performing the famous “Waterloo” at Eurovision 1974. Sigrit, on the other hand, didn’t speak much until she found her voice by singing with Lars. They probably aren’t siblings, although played by Pierce Brosnan, Lars’ father slept with almost every woman in the area, so you never know. Both dream of participating in the Eurovision contest. The problem is that nobody is interested in their songs, not even the local community, which demands only “Ja Ja Ding Dong,” a simple song in the style of Icelandic disco, at their concerts. Fate finally smiles at Fire Saga (elves might have had a hand in it). Their dream becomes a reality. But how will these two outsiders from a village in Iceland fare in the big world?

The story is very simple, kitsch pours out of it by the liters, and at some point, it even takes an absurd form. Will Ferrell plays the lead role, and he is also the producer and screenwriter of the film, so if you know his previous works, you roughly know what to expect. No one played subtle humor here. Yet, it can’t be said that the creators went overboard either. There is practically only one unnecessary, tasteless scene here. And even that doesn’t do much harm – because Rachel McAdams, with her charm, can sell anything. I missed seeing this actress in comedy roles, and although this role is completely different from Regina George in Mean Girls, the lovely Canadian once again makes an impression. And that lip sync… Many singers could learn from her how to convincingly pretend to sing. For a moment, I thought McAdams really had such a beautiful voice. However, it’s not her vocals.

The story could have been better developed – you can immediately see that there wasn’t even an idea for the necessary black character and the conflict motive. They were forced in, just to be there. However, the strength of Eurovision Song Contest… is not in the story itself but in its surroundings. There are plenty of attractions on the screen, the songs are very “in the mood,” the landscapes of Iceland and Scotland are stunning, and among the cast, not only McAdams shines but also, among others, Dan Stevens as a singer from a country where there are no gay people (a great, hilarious subplot!). This is not a production just for Eurovision fans. It doesn’t matter that you won’t recognize participants from previous contests who appear in the film – it doesn’t change anything. The most important thing is that you’ll have a lot of fun from the viewing. It’s evident that the actors had a great time on set, and it shows. It will be funny, but also warm and charming. Perfect for a mood boost.