It is hard to decide what to say about Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. I had never heard of it until my parents recommended it to me yesterday. A netflix film, they said it might amuse me, so I gave it a watch earlier this afternoon. To be honest, what I found myself watching was appalling: it’s basically a Will Farrell vehicle for making fun of Europe and European culture. While some argue that it is a celebration of the camp kitsch synonymous with Eurovision, I detected far more disturbing undertones in the film. For one, nearly all the dialogue is American, by which I mean it sounded as if the screenplay was written by an American (which it was – Farrell himself) who made no attempt to engage with the culture of the people the film is trying to depict. As Will Gompertz says here, ”the depiction of Icelanders and their culture as an unsophisticated bunch of beer-drinking, whale-watching, knitted jumper-wearing innocents is tiresome and ignorant.” All the characters speak using American idioms but using cringeworthy, borderline offensive Icelandic accents.
This is basically an American film trying to mock an aspect of european culture. The campness of eurovision is not celebrated but amplified in order to ridicule it, like an outsider seizing upon and mocking something they do not understand. Any cultural authenticity is thrown out the window in order to give Farrell a chance to mime along to cheesy music while telling an utterly ridiculous, cliche-ridden story. This is Farrell’s attempt to mock europe by dressing up and imitating his perception of it, while acting in the same inherently American way he always does. Thus his character is shown to loathe American tourists; the very tourists who at the end of the film save the day in an utterly ridiculous car chase through Edinburgh.
You can definitely tell this is a Netfix film; it would be hard to see this kind of dross getting any kind of traditional theatrical release. That in itself raises questions about whether online film streaming sites might actually be changing not only how audiences watch films, but also what sort of films get made. Is film as an art changing to become less cinematic and more toned down and suited to smaller screens and more casual types of viewing? If lightweight, derogatory dross like Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is anything to go by, we cinephiles have a lot to worry about.