An evening with Anton Corbijn on his Depeche Mode fandom film, Spirits In The Forest

Words: Lauren Dehollogne

Depeche Mode’s new documentary ‘Spirits in the Forest’ isn’t as much about them as it is about their dedicated fan base. Six people from around the world – Mongolia to the US to Romania – were picked by Dutch director and photographer Anton Corbijn to convey the story of their dedication. One French fan woke up from a coma to only remember her love for Depeche Mode while having forgotten everything else about her life; another, a dad from Colombia, formed a cover band with his kids and became an internet sensation as he taught them English to understand what Depeche’s lyrics meant.

Berlin’s Waldbühne (Forest Stage), the last stop of their ‘Spirits in the Forest’ tour of 2017/18, is the place where these six extraordinary people meet to see their favourite band in action. Throughout the film you can see snippets of the record-breaking tour – performing to three million fans across 115 global shows – as a background story. LDN was invited to a preview screening featuring a Q&A with the director at the Curzon cinema in Mayfair. Corbijn joked about only working with Depeche Mode because of their “fat cheque book” but applauded their art while commending the fans for creating such a community of likeminded individuals.

The selection process for the film’s stars, who now call each other “soul brothers and sisters”, was through a Facebook campaign. Each entered a contest to run the ‘Depeche Mode’ Facebook page for one day. To do that they had to explain what the band meant to them and why they would be the right fit.

Not only did all of them have interesting stories to tell, but they also came from starkly different parts of the world. Communism, racism and dictatorships are just another layer to this documentary. It was a carefully weighed decision to not just include fans from the western world. It made the fandom all the more convincing and moving, and caused many fans at the screening to shed a tear.

Corbijn, who started working with the English band in 1986 when he directed a video for ‘A Question Of Time’, explained why he didn’t make this a Depeche Mode feature film; he felt he was too close to them and wasn’t sure whether this was the right direction for them. He also admitted that although he had respected Ian Curtis enough to make a feature about Joy Division, 2007’s ‘Control’, he wasn’t sure if he was a big fan of music feature films himself.

‘Spirits In The Forest’ is a marvellous film. It may not give you much in-depth knowledge about the band, but it gives you all the more information about how the band is perceived. It showed that once an artists’ music is out there, it doesn’t belong solely to them anymore. It can have a multitude of meanings, created by the fans. This documentary shows that the band is only half as interesting as the culture surrounding it.

‘Spirits In The Forest’ is in selected cinemas worldwide for one night only on November 21.

Get tickets from here and watch a trailer below.

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