Heitker, Norbert (Director)
Wacken 3D (DVD)
Released: 2015, Warner
I was quite surprised (but pleased) to learn that the movie WACKEN 3D was going to a have a single night screening in select theatres across Canada. I was surprised because the movie was filmed in 2013 and released in 2014. It was already available on home video so the only reason I can think of that they would screen the movie would be to push the North American pressing of the Blu-Ray. I was still glad and jumped at the chance to see it on the big screen in 3D.
It was a mild night just before Halloween and the few faithful (about 40 of us) gathered to enjoy the spectacle. After a minor glitch with the 3D not working the movie started. The movie was visually superb. The use of aerial footage from skycranes, helicopters and drones is magnificent. The crowd seems to go as far as the eye can see, giving you a sense of what 80,000 people look like! There was not really too much narration nor was there any comprehensive narrative but instead the directors choose to focus on a few areas, they followed a few fans and interviewed them about their experiences. They interviewed a few artists about what it was like to play Wacken and all of them said it was superb. They followed a few bands through the preparation for the Wacken Metal Battle. There was also tons of footage of the fans in every aspect of the weekend, eating, sleeping, walking around, shopping, swimming, setting up camp, drinking (of course!) signing, and naturally head-banging! In fact there was a heck of a lot of footage of fans watching the shows. Perhaps too much, it comprised a large percentage of the film with long shots of people crowd surfing and so on. There was one very interesting segment where they filmed the mosh-pit in super slow-motion 3D of a few headbangers with a classical music piece. It was artistic and extremely well done...but...it went on too long. It could have been any person, anytime, anywhere, in any muddy mosh-pit in one of any muddy European Metal festivals, an experience not all unique to Wacken. Then of course there were the concerts. There was no single song played in it's entirety, just edited clips from various songs ranging from Deep Purple, to Rammstein to Anthrax to Anvil and more. I must admit I did get a little tear in my eye and a sense of national pride when the main curtain dropped and Annihilator hit the stage playing 'King Of The Kill' with tens of thousands of people chanting 'KILL!" The movie really gave a strong sense of what it is like to be immersed in the Metal culture for that weekend.
Despite all the high quality of production, great footage and awesome music, overall I was disappointed. Perhaps were my expectations were too high but I felt the film was lacking in a number of areas. I want to qualify that that by saying WACKEN 3D was very good but not great!
The first major problem I had is that the film did not really cover the scale and scope of how huge the festival is. In 2013 there were about 150 Metal bands played Wacken and the movie showed only 18 of them. That's only about 12%! Of course we can't reasonably expect the filmmakers makers to feature all 150 bands but they could have at least mentioned it or list them in the end credits. Wacken has four stages running constantly and we only got to see footage of two of them. They could have explained there is a domestic talent showcase, a Party stage and so on and a shot of them so we could see where the other stages are and what they look like.
Tied in with this problem was the footage did not include many of the headliners that year. Nightwish, Rage, Grave Digger, Amorphis and Meshuggah were all completely all left out and there was only one very brief clip of the other headliner, Doro. I can understand skipping many of the lesser known bands but to omit the headliners is almost inexcusable. It's like doing a documentary of a soccer game or tournament and not mentioning who the # 1 ranked team is or showing the final! For the record the German band Rage was the main headliner and oddly enough they got no mention and no footage.
There was a bit of politics as to who got featured. The Wacken group several years back founded a record label called UDR, which I believe is the initials of three of the main behind the scenes organizers. Many of the artists heavily featured in the movie (Alice Cooper, Motörhead, Annihilator) are UDR artists. I totally understand the people who made the film (UDR) want to showcase their own artists but for a more well balanced documentary it would have been better to show a broader range of talent. In addition, it is possible that the big headliners who got omitted (Rage, etc) may have have declined UDR permission to film them..or more likely those bands record labels declined to give the competition, UDR, to film them. A third possibility is that perhaps the parties involved charged or asked for too much money for rights for that footage. Whatever the reason, politics, money, competing interests, unfortunately we, the viewers got to see only a fraction of what was going on.
There were several events that could have been mentioned. Both Nightwish and Alice Cooper filmed DVD's that night, SHOWTIME, STORYTIME and RAISE THE DEAD respectively. Both DVD's came out last year and are available on UDR records and both are superb. We did not see that the Motorhead set was it short due to Lemmy's health problems. Apparently, he collapsed. Although I did not expect the scene to be filmed out of respect for Lemmy, but it was an important event because it was the first time that the wider-scale public saw the first chink in the armour of the seemingly indestructible Lemmy. It could have been mentioned.
I was pretty disappointed in the overall style of the documentary. I was hoping for some history, some background, some interviews with the festival founders or maybe an interview with someone who had been at the first one. In 1990 it started as about 100 people watching six local bands in a farmers field so I would have enjoyed more historical context. Who was the first international act to play Wacken? For the record it was Saxon in 1992. More of that kind of information could have been included. At the end of the film during the credits, there were a couple of still shots of early versions of the festival but I believe those are already available in the history of Wacken coffee-table book.
There are thousands of support staff who run Wacken each year...they have basically built a mini-city and there was no mention of the massive effort to build, deploy, operate and maintain the facility. I would have liked some footage of the command center or interviews with some staff or long-time employees. The founders get a few seconds of screen time so I hope the DVD will have extended interviews.
One part I did really enjoy was the focus on the Wacken Metal Battle. The annual international context got featured heavily as did some cool, underground bands from Uruguay and Mongolia. A Canadian band, Crimson Shadows won the WMB that year and although the footage showed the formal announcement, the winner didn't get mentioned by name! They could have mentioned that hundreds of band from around the world play a series of regional and national competitions before the final 29 bands go to Germany and they should have said who won.
Overall WACKEN 3D had the look and feel of a big, shiny, 90-minute commercial. A superbly done commercial, but a big advertisement for Wacken nonetheless. I think everyone who actually went to Wacken that year should buy this, so that could be a good 80,000 sales for the Blu-ray! It was interesting, fun and extremely well done, but I had hoped for more substance under all the sizzle. One day I will make the pilgrimage to the Metal Mecca and experience it for myself and you should too!
PLEASE NOTE: The DVD / Blu-Ray will be available in Canada on November 10th, 2015 and will distributed by Raven Banner Entertainment. Special thanks to Kathryn of GAT PR for all her support.