When we were young again

I was on an airplane when I first tripped over the movie “Mamma Mia” a few years ago. I must have startled (and probably scared) my fellow passenger by basically bouncing around in my seat to the music. I saw the movie again, later, somewhere, on TV – and still loved it.
Fast forward, to “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again”. I went with a friend – both of us of an age where we were young when Abba was – and both of us knew the songs, and both of us SANG ALONG to them in the theater. So did the rest of the audience. The guy directly in front of me was dancing in his seat just as I must have done in that airplane once – I could tell, I could see the back of his seat bounce in time to the music.

Photo of Lily James in scene from'Mamma Mia
Lily James in ‘Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again’ on the Dalmatian coast in what used to be Yugoslavia, a place I used to visit as a child

What can I tell you? This was, as a critic put it somewhere, a movie which basically wrapped a flimsy story line around existing music. The plot is marginally iffy, even throwaway – the movie story is merely the support around which the “real” story, the music, is twined. It’s schmaltzy, it’s sweet, it’s insubstantial enough to blow away if you blow too hard upon it – but you’re too busy singing, heart and mind and voice, to care.
It’s also other things – it’s warm, its sometimes poignant, it’s funny (and it’s filmed on an island called Vis, which is NOT in Greece but is a part of the Adriatic coast of what used to be Yugoslavia, where I spent my childhood summers, and oh, I *remember that sea*…)
It has moments in it that made the entire audience whoop
…when the old Greek force-of-nature lady faces down one of our Donna’s swains, after he abandoned her, and tells him that Donna has gone out on the glass-green sea on a boat with another man, a much better man than the one she is berating, “and that’s karma, and it’s pronounced HA!”
…when you catch a glimpse of two of Soph’s Dads recreating the prow moment from the “Titanic” movie on the prow of a small Greek boat
…when the camera pans around the pandemonium in the restaurant during the full-on-crazy production number of “Waterloo” and you realize that the piano player in the corner is none other than a grinning Bjorn Ulvaeus, one of the B’s in Abba,
And it had moments that made me tear up (the slightly rearranged lyrics to “My Love, My Life” when Donna’s spirit comes to bless her daughter and granddaughter..) but right at the end of it, in the final “Super Trooper” production finale, when the “now” Dads (the middle-aged men) are dancing up there on the screen along with the “then” Dads (the young men whom the young Donna once loved) when you realize that this is exactly what this glory of a movie has done for you.
There’s you, the older you, sitting there in the darkened theater – and there’s the young you, the you who was in your twenties when these songs were new, who is dancing right there beside you, and *it’s the same person*. This is the fountain of youth, the mirror of memory, you grin and cry and laugh through your tears and you sing you sing you sing right along with that younger self who remembers everything so well and the sun is shining on that perfect sea and love happens to everybody and the world for one pure magical moment is completely all right…
Ah, Abba. Songs of my youth. The sunlit memories. I know all the words, I remember the melodies, and I… just want to have this thing on a loop in the background somewhere, just making me happy.
Abba has sometimes been dismissed as lightweight pop spun-sugar candy, no substance, just fluff and weird costumes. But that’s simply not true. Some songs of their songs are heartbreaking. The voices were pure and well melded. The tunes were memorable and singable. The lyrics were sometimes nothing short of brilliant. For every piece of light bouncy dancey  mindless disco ephemera such as “Waterloo”, there’s an “Andante, Andante”, or a “Day Before you Came”, or even a “Fernando”.
All I can say is… thank you for the music. For giving it to me.
Quote of the day
If you’re only reading the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” ~ Haruki Murakami
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