A new documentary pays homage to 80s Norwegian synthpop band A-ha. It chronicles their 35-year career, including 50 million records sold and ten studio albums.
Formed in Oslo in 1982, the trio consists of guitarist Paul Waaktaar-Savoy, keyboardist Magne Furuholmen and vocalist Morten Harken. “A-ha: The Movie” presents what the band’s fans have known for decades; they have massive stamina despite their one-hit rating.
Their biggest hit, “Take On Me”, appeared on their debut album, “Hunting High and Low”, released in October 1985. Since then, the band have released nine more albums and are preparing to release another in October. . Their rich synth sounds permeate all of their work, though they continue to be known primarily for their first and only big hit.
The movie never suggests and the band never tells us that they get tired of the song. Indeed, “Take On Me” took them to new heights, from poor London flats to the studio of Alan Tarney, who helped them polish the song with the synth riff they had clung to since the 70s. .
For Tarney, who redid the song in a single day, “it was just another record, another day in the studio”, as he had been busy with other projects. For A-ha, Tarney’s production elevated the song and served as the missing link that would propel them to fame.
Keyboardist Magne Furuholmen had written the iconic synth riff when he was a teenager. Growing up just down the street from future bandmate Paul Waaktaar-Savoy, the duo played with sound in different ways for years before forming the band. An early rock version of the riff is presented, which is decidedly disappointing compared to its contemporary. Even the original 1984 version of the single, a hit in the band’s native Norway, failed to gain traction elsewhere until Alan Tarney’s production the following year.
Norwegian filmmaker Thomas Robsahm and co-director Aslaug Holm present an all-encompassing look at the band members with tracks rendered in animated sketchbook drawings in the style of the “Take On Me” music video.
We get to know the band by sharing stories, highs, lows and rare recordings and performances. During rehearsal for an “MTV Unplugged” performance in 2017, and again at the end of the film, they perform a slower version of “Take On Me”.
“A-ha: The Movie” premiered April 8 in select theaters in California, New York and around the world.