Last week the much-anticipated Svengali, written by and starring Johnny Owen, arrived in cinemas nationwide. It tells the familiar story of Dixie, a mod from South Wales, whose deepest desire is to find and manage the next big band. It is a mostly upbeat and light-hearted tale, but with some serious undertones of the trappings of fame and fortune.
Svengali’s most attractive feature is its characters, from Dixie’s charming naivety to the innuendo-laden speeches Francine, one of the record label executives trying to sign the fictional band Dixie brings to the limelight. They are called The Premature Congratulations, perhaps an insight to the themes of the film.
However the star of the cast was, as you might have guessed, the actor who is a star in real life. Martin Freeman appeared in two scenes as the 1960s-style mod owner of a record shop in Camden Town. Though his character was the hilarious epitome of hipster self-righteousness, in a plot full of stereotypes his performance was by far the least overdone and hence most convincing, surprising for such a short screen time and yet exactly what you would expect from such an assured actor. The cast also boasted many a jaw-dropping cameo; from legendary Creation Records boss Alan McGee to Huw Stephens of Radio 1 and even Carl Barât. As you may have gathered, the actual plot was secondary to all this.
For the seasoned music film fan the soundtrack that would have been just as at home on Channel 4’s My Mad Fat Diary may rile you on the obvious-factor, but Svengali is not posing as the next Quadrophenia. Overall, it is a feel-good and relatable reflection of the trials and tribulations of following your rock and roll dreams; just don’t go expecting your life to be changed.