The movie version of the Mamma Mia! musical was one of the biggest box office hits of 2008. Join us for this in-depth look at the DVD version of the movie, which offers a wealth of bonus material – and we also have exclusive comments about the movie from director Phyllida Lloyd.
Although there was quite a buzz surrounding Mamma Mia! – The Movie when it received its gala premieres in June and July of 2008, no-one could know for certain that it would become one of the biggest box office smashes of the year. But that is exactly what has happened. Indeed, in Great Britain, Mamma Mia! has become the most successful British film of all time: at the time of writing, it seems set to overtake Titanic as the biggest-ever film in Britain. Around the globe, there are plenty of statistics of a similarly overwhelming nature, as seems to be par for the course with the Mamma Mia! phenomenon.
The DVD release, packed with extra goodies, is likely to become just as huge a success. Mamma Mia! is the kind of film that people want to watch over and over, and with the DVD, of course, there is no limit to the number of repeat viewings. Moreover, the DVD comes with a Sing-A-Long feature, giving you the chance to participate in the musical numbers.
Listening and looking
For movie buffs, one of the most interesting DVD bonus features will be the commentary track by director Phyllida Lloyd. While you wait for the opportunity to hear her comments on the DVD for yourself, she shares some insights about the making of the movie exclusively for this feature.
Being a first-time film director, albeit with plenty of experience under her belt from stage directing, Lloyd had to come to grips with the special circumstances of being in charge of a movie. “Shooting a movie is like opening a stage show – but every day – for months!”, she says. “In a theatre rehearsal you can have days where nothing extraordinary happens, both you and the actors may lack inspiration. You just have to wait for the magic to come. On screen every day of the shoot has to deliver magic.”
Among the wealth of extras on the Mamma Mia! DVD, are around half a dozen deleted scenes. Although the scenes were fine in themselves, every director has to face the sometimes painful task of removing anything that might slow down the pace of the movie, or is simply saying something that’s more effectively said elsewhere in the movie. Sometimes, the “temperature” of certain scenes may jar against the overall feel of the movie. “Although the shoot for a movie is like the most extreme part of putting on a stage show, the editing process is more like the rehearsal period in the theatre”, explains Phyllida Lloyd. “OK, there is only you and the editor there and technically the actors are not alive in front of you but they are CHANGING every day with each adjustment you make to the picture. […] And like the theatre rehearsal process, you could not expect the edit to come together straight away. It needs months of patience. Lots of listening and looking.”
Dialogue and general action scenes were not the only “victims” of the editing process; an entire musical number was deleted from the film: ‘The Name Of The Game’, performed by the character of Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) to Stellan Skarsgård’s Bill. But it is available for viewing on the DVD, which also offers a closer look at one of the songs that did make the final cut. In “Anatomy Of A Musical Number: ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’” we’re let in on how the number was put together, from the vocal recording to the actual filming.
The Anatomy Of A Musical Number featurette, as well as some of the other bonus features, shows just how exacting a task master Musical Director Martin Lowe was during the making of the film. By the looks of it, Lowe was constantly on hand, goading and cajoling the actors to give their all in terms of expression and phrasing. As is well-known by now, some of the actors were truly apprehensive at the prospect of having to sing, and this behind-the-scenes material shows exactly how important the support of Martin Lowe was to make it all work.
Greek god cameo
Perhaps the pièce de résistance among the bonus features is the 25-minute, three-part documentary entitled “The Making Of Mamma Mia!” In the documentary, we get the story of the background to the Mamma Mia! musical and how it was turned into a film, including comments from the production team as well as ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus. Among the other highlights on the DVD are the music video for Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!, featuring a cameo by Benny Andersson, and a much-extended version of Björn Ulvaeus’ cameo as a Greek god in the film’s ‘Waterloo’ finale.
In conjunction with the DVD release of Mamma Mia! comes a Deluxe Edition of the soundtrack CD. This package features the CD as we know it, along with an additional DVD containing a “making of the album” featurette. With the release of the Mamma Mia! DVD and Deluxe Edition CD, the enjoyment of the musical is extended and expanded upon. You will be able to relive the memories of watching the film in the theatre, and invite your friends to a sing-a-long evening. But you may also find out for yourself all the hard work that goes into putting together a movie like Mamma Mia!, an experience completely separate from the stage version. As Phyllida Lloyd concludes, “The director and the audience are always outside the action of a stage show. They may be made to participate but they are outside the ‘fourth wall’. With a movie the director has to put themselves right into the middle of the action – close enough to hear breathing.”
To learn more about the Mamma Mia! movie, please visit www.mammamiamovie.com
Photographs courtesy of Universal Pictures.