iceberg vs volcano
Björn Borg, winner of five consecutive Wimbledon's. John McEnroe, winner of four US Open's and three Wimbledon's. They met for the first time on the court in 1980 in London. Borg was seeking the fifth title of Wimbledon winner, for McEnroe it the first final in this tournament. Their game is considered to be one of the best final ever played. Can you be thrilled by a movie that you know the ending of?
THE (HI)STORY OF BORG VS. MCENROE
The importance and tension, both in true life and in the movie, leans towards Borg (Sverrir Gudnason). He is not only defending the title, but coming to achieve what was never done before – winning five consecutive Wimbledon's. The real Borg was under a lot of pressure and it was shown on the screen. At the beginning we mostly see him, how he is dealing with the stress and Gudnason made an amazing job. It would seem that every Swedish person could star a reserved, cold and withdrawn tennis player, but not showing the emotions does not mean not having any. And Gudnason used all shivering muscles and gestures to express suppressed feelings without using words. With time more scenes with McEnroe (Shia LeBeouf) come in. For both of them we see some flashbacks from their childhood and/or moments that influenced their career. There is nothing about the plot you don't already know (and DON'T GOOGLE IT if you don't know the outcome of the final. Watch the movie, hate me, bite your nails, thank me). But how the story was told is another pair of shoes.
I love the editing of this movie. Janus Metz, the director, led the work on the production in the way I like it. Once is slows down and allows you to enjoy the mood, then it tunes up the thrill with a feeling of journalist drama investigation/action movie, it manages to show a tennis game appealing (note: it's not like you can follow the ball and count the points by yourself. It's more about the aesthetics, changing the speed, not letting you get bored but still feel the tension in crucial moments of the game). You laugh, you get involved in the story, you feel the atmosphere of the 80s. They adjusted the colours and the music to a place they were showing. Sweden is built of trees and sky, indeed, but the colours are cool and toned down, monochromatic even. Monaco is on the other side, like someone put now a warm filter on the camera, it has vivid, intense colours. London is diversed, colourful, loud, full of dance and music, drugs for working class people and white and clean frame for the uptight upper-class Wimbledon fans. Borg is calm, cold, accompanied with classical music. McEnroe is feisty, explosive, goes well with rock'n'roll and loudness. So beside amazing technical job, could the story surprise you by itself? Well, a twist for me was when I realised that opposition iceberg vs volcano does not have to imply juxtaposition Borg vs McEnroe. It can mean Borg vs Borg or McEnroe vs McEnroe as well. Borg is presented as cold, but as a teenager he was smashing his racket and yelling at the referees, now he had those boiling emotions inside him. McEnroe is explosive kid, but during the final he was focused and professional.
Is it a changing life movie?
Of course it's not. Sometimes the film is too long, sometimes it has some unwelcomed cliches. And some cliches can be understood, but still Metz could have been a bit original and skip them. For example, during the final, both McEnroe and Borg have flashbacks from the important moments in their tennis „education”. Waving trees in the wind in the mind of Borg? McEnroe as kid, looking at the picture of Borg, his idol? Really? Nah. It's not moving me.
The weight of the film is put on Borg, leaving McEnroe a bit behind. It is well made, well written and well played. As I wrote above, I guess any Scandinavian person could play a reserved Borg. But seriously, Sverrir is also a physical copy of the tennis player. I am not sure how was real Borg's English, but knowing the level of the language among Scandinavian people, I would dare to say that Sverrir also tried to have stronger accent while starring as his character, which is an amazing detail. Shia had to be outrageous, impatient and explosive, but humble and friendly when needed and he nailed it. Both of them did.
To be updated you can follow me on: