True North film reactions

The mountains of Northern Norway

Stian Andersen’s film a-ha: True North premiered on nearly 500 cinemas in 26 countries on Wednesday 15 September, including Norway, Germany, UK, Ireland, Brazil, USA, Canada and Australia. Followed by Israel (Sep 19), Japan (Sep 23) and France (Sep 24).

Combining the live performance at Svømmehallen in Bodø with nature footage, actors playing out scenes and spoken statements by the band members, a-ha: True North includes ten of the songs that will be on the upcoming album, only leaving out the last two tracks “Summer Rain” and “Oh My Word”.

“There’s no doubt that a-ha is a demanding band to work with, and they choose their creative teams on the highest international level. Therefore it’s obviously great to be asked to direct such a large film project. I do have the advantage of having worked with the band for many years and already know Morten, Magne and Paul well. I have to give props to a-ha for giving me more or less full creative freedom to follow my vision and make the film I believed in. (…) The most rewarding has been the opportunity to show the movie in cinemas across the world and see the fantastic feedback that we’ve been getting”, director Stian Andersen tells Kreativt Forum.

UK’s The Times (paywall) gives the film 4/5:
“The director, Stian Andersen, filmed the process, interviewed the band and mixed in some dreamy location footage. The results are sweetly engaging, and even occasionally mesmerising.”

NRK Filmpolitiet gives it 4/6:
“True North doesn’t come across like a straight-up concert film, which is not the inention either, but rather like a 72-minute music video for the new album, their first since Cast In Steel from 2015. The sound mix is so comfortable, spotless and precisely balanced that the songs sound like studio recordings, making it obvious that the performance you see isn’t necessarily the same as you hear.

Anyone who’s seen Thomas Robsahm’s excellent documentary a-ha: The Movie will know at least one of the band members was sceptical of making a new studio album due to the band’s challenging inner dynamics. Therefore True North may be a perfect compromise, namely a live recording further processed into something you may call a studio product.

Songs like “Hunter in the Hills”, “Forest for the Trees”, “Bluest of Blue” and “You Have What it Takes” prove that Morten, Paul and Magne still retain the fantastic pop sensibilities that have defined their career through four decades.”

While it gets 3/6 from Aftenposten (paywall):
“The music that fills the album (and the movie, with the exception of two songs) sounds after one screening like familiar, mid-tempo a-ha, but is definitely a bit more organic than on the pop-clinical and fairly cold “Cast In Steel”. (…) But cinematically the music unfortunately gets a bit lost amid all the dark, melancholic and at times dramatic images that director Stian Andersen wraps around it.”

Dagens Næringsliv (paywall):
“It’s beautiful and at times gripping, but after a large number of drone shots of heavy waves you start to get a feeling of having seen an Equinor-sponsored film about sustainability. (…) An element of being a commercial for Bodø as the European Capital of Culture in 2024 is also in my mind when leaving the cinema. It’s pretty corporate.”

Other reviews have appeared in Morgenbladet (paywall) and Gigwise.

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