In Muriel's Wedding, the music of ABBA forms the backbone of the soundtrack, functioning as a significant plot device and assisting in characterisation. In this recording from a Q&A at the NFSA, we hear producer Lynda House talking about the struggle to persuade ABBA for the rights to use their music.
Muriel (Toni Collette) spends her time listening to ABBA songs – dreaming about a glamorous wedding and a life away from her overbearing father (Bill Hunter) and the dead-end town of Porpoise Spit. For Muriel, ABBA is a form of escapism.
The film’s soundtrack, however, also capitalises on the widespread popularity of the band in Australia during the 1970s and ’80s. ABBA enjoyed a 'nostalgia revival’ as well during the 1990s, with the release of their 1992 compilation album Gold: Greatest Hits.
Lynda House's comments highlight a common problem for filmmakers and musicians, who need to negotiate costs and decide how the music will be synchronised and appropriated.
Songwriters Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson eventually allowed their songs to be used, and permitted one of their hits ('Dancing Queen') to be adapted as an orchestral piece. ABBA also notably features in another Australian box-office smash from the same period, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Stephan Elliott, 1994).