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The Swedish House Mafia Movie Is One of the Best Music Documentaries Ever

Seriously. It's that good. Here are five reasons why.
April 18, 2014, 9:49pm

Leave The World Behind, the film that chronicles Swedish House Mafia's final tour before their 2013 breakup, has all the hallmarks of your typical rock doc. We watch Steve Angello, Axwell and Sebastian Ingrosso criss-cross the globe on an exhilarating but often tense tour in which they say goodbye to the world as a trio. Screaming fans are contrasted with backstage dramas. Fingers pointing to the sky are juxtaposed with hotel room anxiety. The break-up of the world's most successful group is made all the more confounding in the light of their obvious success.


This is not a film about dance music, but the story of three friends who happen to find massive success as DJs, making it a compelling watch even if you never liked Swedish House Mafia or even if you can't stand EDM at all. Here's a quick breakdown of what makes Leave The World Behind required viewing.

From the anticipation before the first curtain drops to the tears when the final drop explodes, what Leave The World Behind does best is naturally highlight the emotional experience of live music. It's not about "EDM" or a particular SHM song or even the three guys making the music: the One Last Tour tour was a life-affirming musical moment that gripped its fans in their emotional solar plexus. This is just the movie that shows how real and deep that feeling is - for the artists themselves, but also the audience.

Is there something inherently interesting about watching Sebastian Ingrosso change shirts three times before he leaves the house? No, probably not. Yet despite their success and their their cash, these are three dudes that put their hoodies on, one sleeve at a time, just like you and me.

While we see a particularly tense moment when Angello dips out of a recording session for a tattoo appointment (spoiler alert: "Don't You Worry Child" still gets finished), we never really find out why the Mafia disbands. A cute animated sequence explains the trio's origins, but their early friendship and working relationship with Eric Prydz is not mentioned. In general, Leave The World Behind is light on facts, but that's hardly the point: hearing a sold-out stadium lose its mind for "Greyhound" is the point and it hits that one right on the head.

Director Christian Larson is a sought-after video director, having helmed clips for Gaga ("Telephone"), Britney ("Hold It Against Me") and Kylie ("Timebomb") as well as the Swedes' "Greyhound" Absolut commercial. For his feature-film debut, Larson deploys the same glossy, high-contrast, supersaturated techniques he's known for in his pop videos and the result is a glorious tribute to the beat-filled wonders of night.

Why did Swedish House Mafia sell out Madison Square Garden? Why did "Don't You Worry Child" become a Top 10 hit? Why was their closing set and final performance at Ultra so radically ecstatic? It's not because of their powerhouse manager, Amy Thomson. It's not because of their topline collaborator John Martin's soaring voice. It's not even because three guys from Sweden fell in love with house music and then figure out how to make it. It's because of the fans. The One Last Tour moment capitalized on the global EDM zeitgeist and Leave The World Behind isn't shy about showing the soap motor of that movement: the fans. Featured at every tour stop, celebrated for their enthusiasm, and championed as the leaders of the intangible thing that made Swedish House Mafia great, fans become the true stars of this movie. Without schmaltz or cloying sympathies, contrived moments or cliché stories, Larson and the SHM machine know who this movie is for and what it's really about, and that in and of itself is a victory for music lovers of all genres the world over.

The documentary Leave The World Behind and accompanying soundtrack, One Last Tour: A Live Soundtrack are both available now.