Electronic house DJ trifecta Swedish House Mafia takes to the big screen to both explain their 2013 surprising breakup and say one last farewell to fans in the musical documentary Leave The World Behind. The film, which premiered at SXSW on Wednesday, gives fans a backstage experience of their final globe-spanning tour, aptly titled, “One Last Tour.”
Even though I’m personally not a fan of EDM (Electronic Dance Music, for those over the age of 30), I went into the screening with an open mind. However, as non-judgmental as I tried to be, there’s no denying the egotism right from the start.
The film opens with band members Sebastian Ingrosso, Axel Hedfors and Steve Angello racing down the Miami shoreline via jet-setting speedboat, cut against flashes of bass bumping dance club life. It could be a joke from director Christian Larson about the stereotypical “bro” attitude within their music and culture, but, in this case, it’s hard to differentiate between the joke and the audaciously presented, party-your-face-off reality. The DJ’s proceed to share stories of drug use, binge drinking, and other not so seemingly “glamorous” behaviors. As this reviewer notes, the moment I knew I wasn’t a fan came when archival footage of the Mafia, before their mainstream success, was introduced. One of the members was wearing a graphic t-shirt reading, “Have sex with me, I’m Axwell.” One man’s trash is another man’s hyper-masculine banner cry for YOLO-ing.
One man’s trash is another man’s hyper-masculine banner cry for YOLO-ing.
Larson does a good job, however, of also showing the paternal, more humanistic side of these guys that any raver definitely wouldn’t have seen before. As the trio gets ready for their last world tour, they are shown as family men, hugging and kissing their wives and children before jetting off to blast their beats to party-tripping minors at massive stadiums. It is refreshing, and a bit funny, to see them face-timing their children backstage and singing lullabies just minutes before they go on to perform one of their sold-out concerts. It’s a fun juxtaposition that gives the film some substance for the non-fan.
The overall vibe of the film is upbeat and vivid, as to be expected with any good music documentary, let alone one featuring electro ravers. We follow the group through their ups and downs as a band, observe arguments and subsequent make-ups, which all theoretically allow us to see why this might be their last hurrah. Unfortunately, the story is lacking one crucial element: stakes. Leave The World Behind falls flat because there are none; the guys have already decided to end the band and although the tension between them is palpable enough to fill a cramped green room, it’s not enough for an engaging final story. Visually, the journey that we take with SHM across multiple countries is energizing and stimulating, but when the distractions are gone and Larson is left with his three knob spinners, the energy falls flat. It’s no surprise that the band broke up because they were “lazy” and “non-committal.”
For fans of Swedish House Mafia, Leave The World Behind will satisfy all senses, serving as a proper cinematic escape and send off for the eyes and the ears. The music pulsates through the screen and into the audience, creating an uplifting vibe and overall positive feeling, though in a much more watered-down way then sweating it out to the manic music live show. Leave The World Behind, while not a cinematic masterpiece, is a great film for fans of SHM and electro dance music. No matter how much I fought it, there’s no denying the power of Swedish House Mafia’s music; admittedly, I left the theater with the acoustic version of their infamous hit “Don’t You Worry Child” playing in my head, and it didn’t stop for days.