a-ha: The Movie review – Take on Me hitmakers relive the highs and the lows

An air of self-loathing and regret hangs over this 40th-anniversary documentary about the Norwegian trio who shot to fame in the 80s

It’s got to be one of the worst jobs in showbiz: being a-ha’s official photographer. Here’s the poor guy after a particularly awkward, everyone-gritting-their-teeth photo shoot: “It’s very hard as a photographer when people don’t want to be together. It shows.” And it really does show. Watching this 40th-anniversary documentary, you might conclude that what a-ha really need is a band therapist, not a photographer.

Four years in the making, a-ha: The Movie is the comprehensive story of the Norwegian trio (about 20 minutes too comprehensive for all but diehard fans). To anyone over 45, no introductions are necessary: a-ha is the band whose single Take on Me reached No 2 in the UK charts back in 1985 (it’s still a knockout pop tune with the crack-cocaine of riffs). Back then, the band’s singer Morten Harket smouldered like a sensitive misunderstood bad boy. Now he looks like the dishy doctor from a daytime soap, still impossibly chiselled. Like all the band, Harket has got his personal demons: he’s a perfectionist who instantly reaches for the hand sanitiser after meeting fans (this was filmed pre-Covid, apparently). Keyboardist Magne Furuholmen still resents being booted off guitar back in the 80s. Guitarist Pål Waaktaar-Savoy is a controlling presence.

The history that emerges here is of a band yo-yoing between attempts to be taken seriously as artists, then coming back for more boyband fame and adulation. An air of collective self-loathing and regret hangs over them. Of course, it’s impossible to feel that sorry for three wealthy men in middle age swanning around the world on sold-out tours wearing leather jackets that cost the price of a second-hand car. Waaktaar-Savoy’s wife puts it best when she says it’s a shame they can’t enjoy it more. “It’s sinful not to appreciate what you have when you have so much.”

• a-ha: The Movie is released on 20 May in cinemas.