Promo image of the film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. - John Wilson / NETFLIX

  • "Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga", directed by David Dobkin, will be posted on Netflix this Friday.
  • In this film, Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams play a duo of artists representing Iceland at Eurovision.
  • If Will Ferrell, co-screenwriter of this comedy, who claims to know the competition well, made scouting during Eurovision 2018, the plot takes a very large number of liberties with the reality of musical competition.

Be careful, this article contains some spoilers which, however, do not concern key points of the main plot.

Behind the scenes of Eurovision 2018 in Lisbon (Portugal), we were surprised to meet Will Ferrell. That day, wearing an “I am Charlie” T-shirt, the American actor looked serious. He had come to observe the rehearsals of several artists in the running, including the French duo Madame Monsieur.

"I started following the competition in 1999. I find it really interesting, it is often eccentric and original", he slipped to 20 Minutes, who had ventured to interview him between two doors. Facing our intrigued mine, he explained having discovered the event thanks to his Swedish wife and even having witnessed the victory of Conchita Wurst in 2014 in Copenhagen (Denmark). But he had been careful not to reveal that he was here on location, with the idea of ​​making a film on Eurovision.

Two years later, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga , arrives on Netflix. In this comedy, put online this Friday on Netflix, Will Ferrell is credited as producer. He also plays the role of Lars Erickssong who forms with Sigrit Ericksdottir the Icelandic duo Fire Saga, propelled on the stage of the song contest to defend the chances of their country.

Simplification to the extreme

The result makes you want to go back two years to search the Lisbon garbage cans where Will Ferrell has probably abandoned his observations on the competition and its organization. We are curious indeed to know what he was able to remember as the script he co-wrote takes the advantage of simplifying the Eurovision machine to the extreme.

In fiction, the candidates are left to their own devices, in constant improvisation. The rehearsals have the same intensity as the preparations for the CE1 fair for the Marie Myriam school in Pontault-Combault. The live shows are in total release in the face of the various incidents occurring on the stage.

In reality, Eurovision is a washing machine, where everything goes straight, where chance has no place. The artists are ripped off by a delegation and subjected to a timed agenda brimming with rehearsals, press conferences, mini-concerts and meetings with the fans. Dramas do exist, but they can be resolved in a few hours with lots of smiles and polite communications or, for the most serious confusion, once the contest is over, back to the fold.

"Is Eurovision like" The Voice "? "

To say that we were expecting a naturalist film would be in bad faith. Will Ferrell is not known for embarrassing subtlety and we know that if he appears in the casting of a film on a very particular universe, it is not to find a documentary dimension.

Ricky Bobby: King of the circuit talked about car racing by circulating in the ditch, The Kings of skating was delirious in triple lutz around ice dancing, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga writes his own score and establishes his own rules. The screenwriter and actor had to take up a major challenge: to make the musical event understandable for an audience - especially American - who had never heard of it. It therefore combines pedagogy (limited) and shortcuts (unlimited).

The fans will pull their hair out by highlighting the aberrations that are jostling from one scene to another. Let us cite pell-mell the fact of seeing Spain competing in the semi-final (when it is part of the automatic qualified for the final), a candidate surrounded by six people during his performance (the regulations prohibit being more than six on stage) or international juries distributing 12 points at the end of the semi-final (while this ceremonial is specific to the finals). This may be a detail for you, but for those who can remember the names of the last ten Cypriot candidates from memory, that makes you groan.

Will Ferrell seems to have anticipated the critics. In the film, a group of American tourists - who dares to ask if "Eurovision is like The Voice  ?" - returns, like a running gag, to wipe off the thunderbolts of the Icelandic who, roughly speaking, treats them as uncultivated and parasites in the landscape. From there to see it as a form of autoflagellation of the actor, there is only one step.

It misses the vibrating dimension and the excitement

The Story of Fire Saga however tries to do in the fan service not to completely alienate the aficionados of Eurovision. Witness this curious half-film sequence, purely free, during which a dozen artists who marked the competition (the French Bilal Hassani and Jessy Matador, the Austrian Conchita Wurst, the Swedish Loreen…) play an incongruous medley mixing Eurovision songs ( Waterloo by Abba, Do not leave without me by Céline Dion…) and American hits ( Believe by Cher, I Gotta Feeling by Black Eyed Peas…). Will each known head appearance have a small effect on the most meticulous fans? We will not venture to answer.

However, the film does not completely offend this musical competition launched in 1956 in a Europe bruised by the Second World War and thought of as a unifying event. The Story of Fire Saga  tries to highlight this unifying dimension, where victory is not the alpha and the omega, but it misses the vibrant, exciting, whirling dimension of this competition which brings together some 200 million viewers in front their little screen every year.

The Story of Fire Saga focuses on the most colorful and kitsch performances. We can regret it while recognizing that certain caricature pieces aim rather correctly. To start with that of the favorite, the Russian candidate singing a text without tail or head "I am a lion lover and I hunt for love" ("I am a lion lover and I hunt love"), making boxes on a crypto-gay choreography…

"Disposable music"

The only allusion to the less gleaming dimension of the competition is the appearance of the Portuguese Salvador Sobral in the role of a street singer, away from the “eurovisionnesque” barnum. He performs the melancholy ballad  Amar Pelos Dois with which he won the competition in 2017. At the time, just after having triumphed, the singer declared: "We live in a world of disposable music, fast food music with no content . Music is not fireworks. These are feelings. So let's try to change that. "

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga illustrates this creed  . Ironically, Amar Pelos Dois is the only song from the competition to be sung in its entirety in the film.

We can't help but say that, during Eurovision 2016, Måns Zelmerlöw and Petra Mede, managed to say, with their number entitled Peace, Peace, Love, Love,  more relevant and funny things about the competition in the space of five minutes that the Netflix comedy does in two hours. Will Ferrell should have been inspired, but he shouldn't have been in the room that night.

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