April 30, 2010

Full Metal Village (2006)

OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS, my interest in documentaries has significantly increased. I’m not sure why; coincidentally, my choices in books have largely leaned in the same direction: non-fiction and autobiographies have ruled my reading list.

But while my interest in documentaries has been relatively recent, my love for heavy metal spans nearly three-quarters of my lifetime – from the moment my neighbor played me cuts from AC/DC’s Back in Black and the Scorpions’ Blackout back in the early ‘80s.

So, when I saw there was a documentary about what happens to a quiet German town when a monstrous, three-day metal festival rolls in, I stuck my devil horns up with one hand and thrust up a lighter with the other (well, figuratively speaking…at my age, throwing both my arms in the air like that could land me in traction).

Through interviews and visual montages, Full Metal Village examines the lives of the residents of Wacken (a small German town of 1,800 residents) as they prepare for the upcoming annual Wacken Open Air Festival – a three-day concert featuring some of the heaviest metal bands on the planet…as well as 50,000 of their most loyal followers who infiltrate Wacken to attend the show.


Based on Full Metal Village’s subject matter of rock-meets-rural, immediate comparisons to Woodstock (both the event and documentary) come to mind. However, unlike the Woodstock doc, Full Metal Village doesn’t jump right into the organization and execution of its concert. In fact, filmmaker Sung-Hyung Cho uses the first hour of her 90-minute film to give us a feel for the town and its inhabitants even before the concert grounds are shown, the stage is constructed, and the fans arrive.

Cho interviews roughly a dozen residents of Wacken, including:
  • several cattle farmers, featuring a married couple whose banter throughout the film is quite comical
  • a pair of elderly women who’ve heard stories about the supposed evils of the festival
  • a couple of teenage girls (and aspiring models) anticipating the festival
  • a founder of the original Wacken festival who now regrets not staying with it
Wacken’s sweeping farmlands, countryside, and small-town lifestyle are all beautifully shot by cinematographer Marcus Winterbauer – from the sprawling fields of farm crops to the tracking shots of the town storefronts. He also does a commendable job of capturing the essence of the festival and the throngs of concertgoers to close out the film.

Unfortunately, all the quiet quaintness of Wacken translates into a slow movie at times. A more balanced amount of screen time between the townfolk and the festival (or maybe glimpses of what we’ll see at the festival) could have helped liven things up.

Aside from the occasional metal riffs, Full Metal Village features a quirky, simple score by Peyman Yazdanian when Cho shows us Wacken and its people – though it’s hard to say whether the score is endearing or mocking in its tone.

Despite its promised premise of the little town of Wacken being overrun by thousands of metalheads, Full Metal Village is more about the villagers than the metal – it’s essentially a series of character studies with the impending festival as the backdrop. (We don’t see the influx of concertgoers converging on Wacken until the last 20 minutes of the film.)

Ultimately, Full Metal Village is interesting, watchable, but probably not a contender for repeat viewings. Rent it in the most metal way possible.

  • Watch for the funny scene near the end, featuring metal fans from the festival banging their heads at a nearby concert of a German fire department’s marching band.
  • There’s practically no footage of the bands that played at the festival (I suspect lack of permission from the concert organizers). If you’re interested in who performed, a complete band list is here.
German, with subtitles.


Is it suitable for your kids?
Full Metal Village is unrated, but I’d put it in the PG category due to some minor offenses:
* Some mild profanities in the translation
* A brief glimpse of a male concertgoer’s bare butt
* One of the teen girls plays a computer game where the goal is, as a male sheep, to fornicate with as many female sheep as possible. (To quote South Park’s Stan: “Dude, what the f**k is wrong with German people?!”)

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
Even if she’s not a metal fan, she may enjoy Full Metal Village. At its essence, it’s more about the people of the town than the festival, the music, or the fervent fans.

Ich bin ein crowd-surfer!

Full Metal Village
* Director: Sung-Hyung Cho
* Screenwriter: Sung-Hyung Cho
* Stars: Uwe Trede, Lore Trede, Klaus H. Plähn, Irma Schaack, Eva Waldow
* MPAA Rating: N/A (mild profanity, brief nudity)

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1 comment:

Free Movies said...

I heard that the film is supposed to be a portrait of the lives of the people from Wacken. The film leaves me with many unused possibilities.


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