Last weekend we watched the documentary, “Full Metal Village“, which was directed by Korean-born, German resident Sung Hyung-Cho and chronicles a “slice of life” of the village of Wacken, a peaceful farming hamlet of 1800 residents north of Hamburg which every year is inundated by 75,000 metalheads at the annual Wacken Open Air festival.
The film has been generating some positive reviews, and was the winner of 3 awards: 2007 Best Documentary at the Guild of German Art House Cinemas, the 2006 Best Documentary at the Hessian Film Award (prior to the film’s theatrical release) and the 2007 Max Ophüls Award at the Max Ophüls Festival.
Being that I’ve had the pleasure of attending Wacken twice (2009 and 2011) and will be returning for another hit in 2016, and that we spent some time before the festival wandering around the village (it’s so pretty!) I was really interested to see what the documentary had to say about how the people felt about the festival and their black-clad contingent.
The truth is, it didn’t say much.
This wasn’t a “sit down and interview people” kind of documentary. The director followed around a dozen of the village inhabitants – a wry dairy farmer, a village elder who has his finger in every pie, a god-fearing grandmother who bakes cakes every Sunday, and her “very shaggable” (my husband’s words) granddaughter who was longing to leave the small village and explore the world. Sometimes they talked about the festival, but mostly they talked about life. They talked about their interests, or the town, or offered sage advice (such as the fact that every man over the age of 65 must have a girlfriend …) I enjoyed the way these meandering dialogues gave you a real sense of the people who live in that village.
The picturesque landscapes are beautifully shot, and the slightly mocking tone of the Peyman Yazdanian score help to keep the film moving, but ultimately, it was a bit of a slow slog (partly this was because Full Metal Village is German with subtitles, and subtitles are literally headache-inducing if, like me, you are pretty blind). The film definitely focuses more on the village than the festival – if you were hoping for some interesting backstage footage on how a festival of this size goes together, you will be disappointed.
I think it’s probably more of interest to people who have been to Wacken (either the village or the festival) so the audience is a bit niche. It’s not till the last 20 minutes of the film that we start to see the influx of metalheads into the village. One of the closing sequences is my favourite, but partly because it’s one of my favourite memories from the festival itself: An ocean of metalheads headbanging and singing along to the village’s brass band (The Wacken Firefighters) who open the festival every year.
The scenes where the village authorities are removing the town signs to replace them with cheap plastic ones (which they know will be stolen) seems to me to be so typical of the kind of attitudes that we encountered there. Everyone from the village I met was very accepting – many villagers run stalls or work as guides or set up little hot dog stands in their front gardens – but there is definitely a sense that when WOA is not in session, this place goes back to being a beautiful, peaceful farming hamlet that are just more keen on goats than Goatwhore.
Worth a watch, especially if you’re interested in the festival or you’ve attended, but probably not something you’re going to stick on repeat. Check out Full Metal Village on Amazon
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