The main takeaway from Leave The World Behind, a new documentary about the demise of DJ super-trio Swedish House Mafia, is that it’s best to go out when you are on top, even if you are living a lifestyle filled with riches, success, and fame beyond even most rock stars’ wildest dreams. But you better make damn sure your fellow House Mafiosi are on the same page.
In 2012, this wildly successful DJ crew called it quits, saying that they had accomplished more than they ever could have imagined and would now focus on solo DJ and production careers. They embarked upon a massive farewell tour from 2012 to 2013, melting the faces of adoring fans at sold-out arenas worldwide, and then presumably faded off into the Swedish countryside to eat meatballs and peruse Ikea catalogues. Or possibly to see if they could capture the same uplifting progressive house magic they had with hits like “In My Mind”, “Greyhound,” and “Don’t You Worry Child”.
The documentary’s style matches SHM’s glossy music, opening and closing with shots of the guys cruising around Miami on the eve of their final show in a cigarette speedboat, hair blowing in the wind, the world their proverbial oyster. There are also shots of them skydiving, boxing, swimming in large pools, and generally having fun in glorious high-definition slo-mo. Throughout the 90-minute running time, the cameras follow the group as they travel from city to city, setting up a massive light and stage show to pulse in time with their beats. In quieter moments, they smoke a lot of cigarettes, FaceTime with their wives and children, and ponder this momentous decision they’ve made.
It’s apparent that there are some drawbacks to the superstar DJ lifestyle, even if they’ve left their hard-partying days behind. But it also seems like they are having an incredible time traveling the globe, making ridiculous amounts of money, and working feverish crowds into sweaty, rapturous bliss. The exact reasons for breaking up aren’t articulated precisely, and at times it seems like the guys aren’t exactly sure of why or what they are doing it for. But even those with a passing knowledge of the group or its music will be enthralled by all the pretty pictures that this doc throws in your face (at times said pictures seem like they could use a warning about possible seizures). Director Christian Larson does his best to not only make SHM look like the e-music gods that they are, but to match the throbbing cadence and pulse of the music.
Ultimately, Leave The World Behind doesn’t really delve very far into who Swedish House Mafia actually are and what really makes them tick. There is a little drama in the slight disagreements that takes place in the studio and on private planes as to whether they are making the right choice in splitting up. But this isn’t a hard-hitting look at a successful group going out in its prime; it’s an adoring portrait of one of the biggest names in recent house music that does everything in its power to make its subject look epic and awesome. In that, it succeeds smashingly.