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Waltz for Monica - Scandinavian Film Festival 2014

Home > Brisbane > Film Reviews | Jazz
by Jenny Esots (subscribe)
A freelance writer and traveller who likes to explore the spiritual, literary and hidden gems of Adelaide and beyond.
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All that Jazz
Waltz with Monica tells the story of a sultry Swedish Jazz singer. Based on the life of Monica Zetterlund. The alternate film title on some promos is Monica Z.

This film seems to have come with little preamble or big sell marketing campaign. It is a blank slate to contemplate regarding star ratings and hype.

Edda Magnason as Monica
Edda Magnason as Monica

We are introduced to Monica as a young, small town girl who is determined to make it as a singer in the vibrant sixties jazz clubs of Stockholm, and even New York City.

The impression is given of the repression of small town life.

Monica is undeniably beautiful, sensual and going places.

This is a look at the golden era of jazz.

But behind all the glamour, Monica struggles to face the dark side of fame and success. As late nights of working and partying begin to take over her family life suffers. There are lovers, a father she can never please, and a daughter to whom she'll never be the perfect mother.

Monica is in danger of losing everything she dreams of.

Set in the 1960's the era is faithfully recreated. The Jazz clubs, stylish fashion and street scenes of another time. There are sumptuous settings, cars and homes.

The jazz singers of the times are referenced as is Monica's biggest influence Ella Fitzgerald.

The film opens with Monica working in a telephone exchange, before racing to get to her second job as a late night jazz singer in a lounge bar.

Monica is played by newcomer Edda Magnason. An alluring and magnetic screen presence.

Edda Magnason as Monica
Edda Magnason as Monica

She has the beauty to hold an audience, the smoky voice to swoon too.

The film is devoted to her struggle for fame.

As this story is unknown to most people outside of Sweden there is a sense of walking in on a fully complete life that is somehow obscured or out of reach.

The details are added about trips to New York, recording albums, riches and adulation.

But as it never made the pages or charts in the West, it seems almost a pastiche of others stars who have created a lasting legacy for all time. As in the jazz singers that are emulated in this film who stand tall.

The songs are timeless, but as Ella Fitzgerald says to Monica in the film 'Why aren't you doing your own songs?'
The sight of a Scandinavian person singing grungy American Jazz standards seems off key.

Monica Zetterlund
Monica Zetterlund

The most glaring parallel of this glamorous woman's search for fame is to Marilyn Monroe. The sensual, insecure, blonde bombshell, that seeks out men as her saviour on her way to her ideal of adulation, love and a perfect family life.

The screenplay sets up a juxtaposition of fame versus motherhood and family life from very early on.

Monica is an exquisite presence, but the story lacks depth. There are cliques and a parade of characters. But not much feeling for what happens to Monica.

The final credits roll and the audience is still left wondering who really is Monica?

Special event screenings of Waltz with Monica are currently being held as part of the inaugural Scandinavian Film Festival. Click here for details.

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*Jenny Esots was invited as a guest
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