Swedish House Mafia’s ‘Leave The World Behind’ leaves plenty of questions unanswered
It could be argued that there are only a handful of artists worthy of creating their own documentary. For example, one might point to Porter Robinson‘s 2013 mini documentary, “The Language Tour” or Hardwell‘s self-titled “I Am Hardwell” film, which premiered in South Beach during Miami Music Week. Also premiered this year was Swedish House Mafia‘s “Leave The World Behind” – a documentary that illustrates the group’s unprecedented success, their experience traveling the world together one last time and the underlying tensions that encouraged them to disband.
We learn almost immediately that Axwell enjoys making music while getting ready, allowing him to listen in a “passive” way. Sebastian does not leave the house without his wedding ring and, later on, he reveals that he sees a therapist to help alleviate his anxiety. And finally, Steve has an appreciation for tattoos and appears less connected to Swedish House Mafia than his counterparts, although this isn’t exactly a big reveal. While the differences among the three are seemingly small, they set the stage for the remainder of the film and remind us that despite being best friends, the trio still have their individual interests and agendas.
Perhaps most compelling about director Christian Larson’s film is that it cuts to the chase and refuses to sugar coat Axwell, Sebastian and Steve’s relationship as Swedish House Mafia. In other words, this is not a story of love and loss as some may have expected; rather, it is simply a story about loss.
For most, the sole purpose of watching Leave The World Behind was to uncover why Swedish House Mafia chose to disband at such a crucial point in their career. When the group announced their breakup in mid-2012, fans couldn’t help but to question the timing of their decision as their influence was still growing at a monumental rate. While the documentary does address the dreaded question from time to time, it is evident that fans’ expectations far outweigh the results. We never explicitly discover why they broke up and we likely never will; instead, we are occasionally fed hints that force us to arrive at our own conclusions. It is this lack of candidness that will likely leave most fans underwhelmed, left anticipating a colossal reveal that never comes.
Given the evidence, there are a multitude of inferences that can be made pertaining to Swedish House Mafia’s breakup. The group makes a strong effort to convince the media that no “falling out” has occurred, although there is a noticeable awkward silence during their first interview when asked to confront the million-dollar question. Yet, Ingrosso’s comment as the documentary progresses – “We aren’t best friends anymore” – doesn’t serve to satiate true fans of the trio.
Of the three members, Axwell is by far the most open about his feelings on the issue: “It doesn’t get bigger than this. That would mean repeating ourselves. So we were like, the biggest change we could do right now is to stop.” However, he also seems to be the most attached to the idea of Swedish House Mafia persisting: “It feels like we have been given the key to the golden city and we are throwing it away. We could have kept going and gotten even bigger.”
Aside from wanting to devote more time to their deserving wives and children, Axwell further delves into the sources of Swedish House Mafia’s rooted conflicts. From sparse quality time to living in different areas and having individual agendas, he acknowledges that they haven’t been able to give the group the commitment it deserves. The core of their problems lies in the fact that Swedish House Mafia was consistently being put onto the back burner and that they intentionally “swept [their breakup] under the carpet” to prevent a war. “I think some of us made some mistakes and the fact that we haven’t been able to sit down and say sorry to each other is a tragedy,” Amy Thomson comments. “But even if we said sorry, I don’t think it would fix it. And I think that we all want to be happy more than we want to be in Swedish House Mafia.” Essentially, it was the lack of communication, opposing aspirations and the overwhelming desire to preserve what was left of their friendship, that led the three to their end.
Another conclusion we can draw from “Leave The World Behind” is that fans’ expectations of Swedish House Mafia became overbearing and that the group evolved into something bigger than Hedfords, Ingrosso and Angello combined. “It just became this big machine, you know? A monster,” Steve admits.
Fans’ high expectations of “Leave The World Behind” to provide solidified answers parallel their unrequited hope that Axwell refers to – for Swedish House Mafia to continue on their path toward excellence. Though in some ways the film feels inadequate, Larson’s visual effort to portray the truth scratches at the surface enough for viewers to read between the lines and unravel the mystery on their own. In his defense, it is a difficult question to acknowledge and there will never be one, simple answer as to why the group suddenly chose to disband. However, Larson’s success lies in the film’s ability to give us a glimpse of the trio’s personalities and lives, in addition to bringing their “One Last Tour” to life through raw footage. Interestingly, the film could also speak to the larger message of dance music’s stability, or lack thereof, with the fall of Swedish House Mafia foreshadowing the eventual fall of the genre altogether.
“Leave The World Behind” and its accompanying soundtrack, “One Last Tour: A Live Soundtrack,” are now available via iTunes:
Leave The World Behind: iTunes
One Last Tour: A Live Soundtrack: iTunes