Opening 24 Jul 2014
For the last 25 years a small town named Wacken, about 40 miles north of Hamburg, Germany, has been the venue for the world’s largest, four-day, heavy metal concert, always the end of July. The 2000 residents welcome 75,000 heavy metal fans who spread out on farmers’ fields (altogether the equivalent of 300 soccer fields) with their tents, cars, huge stages, 800 portable toilettes, and 448 showers. Director Norbert Heitker realized a dream, when, in 2013, he and his team with 18 3D cameras filmed the four-day spectacle. Fans and 140 bands came from 45 countries. He interviews famous heavy metal musicians behind stage. We experience the actual performances (my favorite was Rammstein) complete with special effects: water, fire, confetti, lights – all gigantic. He follows three unknown bands with ambitions to reverse that condition: GOD – The Barbarian Horde from Romania, Nine Treasurer from Mongolia, and Rotten State from Uruguay. They were the winners of an annual Metal Battle in their home countries and were vying against winners from 36 countries to become the international winner. Six fans have been selected as “typical” and indeed they are typical in that they are all very nice, content people – none of the aggressive violence that some people might unknowingly associate with head-banging, wild outfits, and a clinched fist with two fingers in the air (which supposedly represents the horns of the devil, but my metal-loving colleague says actually represents a French fries fork). Cielu comes for the third time from Taiwan; she tells her worried mother that she is on a business trip. Katie and Breanna are from Canada and call it “coming to Waykin” in their English pronunciation. Speaking of English: Non-German speakers will understand at least 80% of the film, since many of the interviews, as well as the songs, are in English with German subtitles.
This is not the first film about W.O.A. (Wacken Open Air). There is, among others, the award-winning Full Metal Village by Sung-Hyung Cho from 2006. However, while Ms. Cho concentrated on the villagers and their reactions and participation, as well as the organization, Heitker gives us pure music; it’s all about the bands (my favorite band name was Eskimo Callboy) and the crowd-surfing fans, who happily swim in the spirit – spirit: an often repeated word to describe the pure bliss of participation. Wacken 3D is excellent and you will find yourself tapping to the beat in spite of yourself. And if you definitely can’t imagine going to the film, much less to Wacken, don’t worry. You’ll have more luck buying a ticket to John Neumeier’s Nijinsky Ballet Gala in June than to any W.O.A. in July. This year’s festival, July 31 to August 2, 2014, sold out a year ago within 48 hours. (Becky Tan)