Ibiza reimagined as a rom-com: what could go wrong?
Why is it so hard to make a clubbing film? Netflix's latest attempt joins a long line of movies that have hit embarrassingly wide of the mark while attempting to take dance music culture onto the silver screen.
Is there anything worse than when film-makers turn their attention to the clubbing experience? Many have tried and failed - often miserably - to capture the essence of the rave. And while the scenes and the characters and the music might always change, the experience for the real electronic music fan is always the same: slow motion cringe.
When Netflix’s Ibiza; marched onto the site brazonly emblazoning the island in its title, I’ll admit I grimaced before even watching the first scene. If you’ve seen 'Kevin & Perry Go Large' and 'It’s All Gone Pete Tong (a film whose only saving grace to quote the classic UK Ronseal ad, was that it did what it said on the tin) you’ll have a good idea of what kind cinematic crimes usually go down when film-makers fall in love with the white isle.
The first problem with Netflix’s ‘Ibiza’ is that it really isn’t about Ibiza. Its a millenial city girls on vacation movie, with a bit of EDM thrown in for bad measure. It may have been set in Ibiza (and ironically shot in Croatia) but it has little to do with the real Ibizan club scene.
If you haven’t yet braved your way though a few seconds of it to see what it’s like, the premise is this: New York career girl gets sent to Barcelona on a work trip by a dragon boss. She falls for an EDM DJ in a club and follows him to Ibiza and her friends tag along for the ride.
There are plenty of beautifully shot club scenes all kissed by that super sheen Instagram lens filter that Netflix imbues on each of its tv series. But underneath the pretty camera work and the premise, is a film without a script, propped up by the kind of lukewarm, ad-libbed banter that immediately triggers the eject button whenever I try out a new show on Netflix.
It’s connection to Ibiza is tenuous. And that’s not just immediately apparent from the EDM soundtrack. If you were hoping for a film that tries to accurately capture the magic of Ibiza, this is most certainly not it. Like many that have gone before it, it attempts to capture the hallmarks of clubbing culture but quickly lands on its ass. The first afterparty scene pits the cast in a smoking session that has more in common with Cheech and Chong than a club culture film. The second, set in Ibiza tries to emulate the energy of Human Traffic’s dancefloor scene but seems more fitting to a film about US frat students on Spring Break than a movie about Ibiza. From one clueless, drunken plot step to another, it gets the island and clubbing all wrong.
How hard can it really be to capture the club experience? Perhaps it is impossible. Dance music is afterall such a subjective and obsessively loved experience. As a collection of genres within a genre, it is a tribal experience. A movement that prides itself on unity, but a universe made up of lots of different worlds who all have a different take on what the dance music experience is about. Pleasing all of those people in a film is perhaps an impossible task.
The island of Ibiza is again another intensely subjective experience. You either get it or you don’t. And for those who do, whether you’re a Playa d’en Bossa first timer or a former raver at a yoga retreat, the experience can be wildly different but all are likely to be let down by this latest depiction of the island.
There have been plenty of great club scenes in films. The vampire club scene in Blade and Robocop’s imagining of a futuristic Detroit party are two that spring to mind. But films that attach themselves thematically to club culture mostly completely miss target or crash and burn in a ball of flaming cheese.
Clubbing films usually fall into three categories: those loved by clubbers but aren’t really about clubbing (Trainspotting and 24 Hour Party People), clubbing films loved by clubbers but not taken seriously by film critics (Human Traffic) and nonsense cash ins attempting to lure the clubbing demographic to the box office (Kevin & Perry Go Large, It’s All Gone Pete Tong).
2015 French film 'Eden' perhaps bucks the trend by being an earnest attempt to portray the inner machinations of DJ culture but has fallen way short of achieving iconic status like Human Traffic, a film loved by clubbers, but which is essentially about drug culture and not clubbing.
It is quite staggering how the film industry has routinely failed to capture the essence of club culture considering that electronic music is now a huge global movement spanning several decades of history. Instead of finally capturing one of youth culture’s most vital movements, Netflix’s ‘Ibiza’ is mindless television for post six o’clock brains that are too fried from work to find anything better to watch. And a gratuitous play for the twenty and thirty something Netflix gang, that is likely to be quickly forgotten by everyone except those dance music fan bemoaning the fact that they can’t now unsee it.
Netflix is churning out shows currently at a rate that seems far too fast to guarantee quality and Ibiza is a further example of this trend. While shows like Stranger Things got it right by carefully paying detailed homage to a genre (in the case of 'Stranger Things;' the 80s PG blockbuster), 'Ibiza' comes off like a film made by someone with little other than a passing connection to club culture.
While rock music has 'Quadrophenia,' 'The Doors' or 'Control,' we are still owed our definitive club culture film and if Netlix’s ‘Ibiza’ is anything to go by, it looks like we’re going to be in for a long wait.
No EDM Here: