Eurovision, The Story Of Fire Saga, is the new Will Ferrell film about a fictional Icelandic band, making an improbable appearance at the Eurovision Song Contest. I first came across this film in a BBC review. The critic awarded two stars, and said you can tell within two minutes when you’re watching rubbish. I watched the first two minutes and decided that I very much wanted to continue. Why the difference? Was it because the BBC critic was a deep, intelligent and profound cultural commentator, while I was a silly, superficial blogger? Well that could be true, but let’s assume not.
I think this film is actually about the indefinability of music. After all, Fire Saga is meant to be a bad band. Lars and Sigrit, after dreaming of Eurovision glory since a young age, have a small following in their Icelandic town, where they are generally expected to confine their set list to one song, called Jah Jah Ding Dong. Fire Saga only reach the Iceland qualifying competition because a last act is needed to fill the quota, and their demo tape happens to be the one an official pulls from a lucky-dip box. Then, their qualifying performance, after suffering technical mishaps, turns out to be a disaster. The Icelandic judging panel regard Sigrit and Lars as a joke, and decide in the first few seconds that their song is rubbish.
Sigrit’s mother now provides her daughter with some advice – first, give up on Lars; and second stop performing with her head, when she should be performing with her heart. This second piece of advice, suggests that there is something in music which is difficult to rationalise. Music has an unpredictable element. We cannot know for certain which song will appeal to people, and which will win nil points. So it is fitting that Iceland’s selection competition takes a chaotic turn. All the Icelandic acts, except Fire Saga are invited to a glamorous party on a boat. The boat then mysteriously explodes, showering flaming body parts down on Lars and Sigrit watching from the harbour. They are now the last act left, and by default have to be Iceland’s entry at the Eurovision Song Contest in Edinburgh.
Once they arrive in Edinburgh, Fire Saga try to be what a successful band should be. A boy from the world of K-Pop attempts to lend a commercial polish. Unfortunately these efforts lead to Sigrit becoming increasingly uncomfortable with their music. Then there are personal distractions, involving a sultry Greek, and a theatrical Russian, which all leads to another disastrous performance in the semi-final And yet, as is the way with these things, Fire Saga’s staging misfortunes attract enough amused voting to get them through to the final.
After more twists and turns Fire Saga, at last, get to perform in the Eurovision final. But realising he has lost his way trying to be who he thinks a good pop musician should be, Lars insists they play Sigrit’s new song, which she has composed for him while they are in Edinburgh. This heartfelt song is a huge success, and surely would have won the contest. But unpredictable to the last, it is against the rules to change a song during the competition, which means Iceland are disqualified. The suggestion is that music can’t be tied down by rules. Fire Saga can triumph without winning. There is no music which in the end can be defined as good or bad, winning or losing. Music defies such categories, and I guess that’s why some people can enjoy a song disliked by others, and why The Eurovision Song Contest has super fans and haters, and why I can enjoy a film which a BBC reviewer dismisses as rubbish within two minutes.
The Icelandic elves are in charge. They are the tricksy little creatures who blew up the party boat. Who knows what they will get up to next.