Devoted fans of Depeche Mode - and devoted fans in general - are at the centre of Spirits In The Forest
Jessie Atkinson
15:40 1st November 2019

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Anton Corbijn's new film Spirits In The Forest is not a concert film. With six Depeche Mode fans at the heart of this unique music picture, the Director and Artistic Everyman has instead written an ode to the music superfan. Spirits In The Forest is about The Band That Changed Your Life...whether that's Depeche Mode, or not.

Though Dave Gahan and co. (and two of their shows at Berlin’s Waldbühne) are the focus of Corbijn's lens, Spirits In The Forest is a picture that reflects millions of fans’ obsessions with thousands of different bands. It is an affectionate, human exploration of the emotional, all-consuming, life-affirming - and sometimes embarrassing - devotions so many of us develop with our favourite artists.

In a Q&A that follows a special screening of the film, Corbijn notes dryly that not all artists evoke the same emotions as the ones present in those who pray at the altar of Depeche Mode. U2, he asides, prove that. Nevertheless, Spirits In The Forests manages to transcend its focus, even when Corbijn’s subjects speak so wrenchingly and devotedly of Depeche Mode and only Depeche Mode. 

In each of the six fans who form the narrative of this film burns a fire that is recognisable in anyone who has ever plastered their walls with images of an artist, followed them around on tour, or carried their music so painfully around in their heart.

The effect is in part due to the diversity of the six fans who bare their souls in this film: Indra from Mongolia, Dicken from Colombia, Christian from Romania, Carin from France, Liz from the U.S.A. and Daniel, a Berliner from Brazil: each tell a different story of why Depeche Mode means so much to them. Joined up in one ninety minute film and woven with live gig action, the stories form one singular, powerful shared energy. Much like the way a good song allows you to project lived experiences upon it, so does Spirits In The Forest depict the all-consuming agony of being a superfan — and if not for Depeche Mode, then viewers of this film will inevitably insert their own object of affection.

A concert film this is not, but the parts of it which focus on those two Waldbühne dates are wonderful too (the full two hour live film will be released next year, sans fans). Corbijn splices both performances with surgical precision: the only way you’d know this was two different shows is by the changing colour of Dave Gahan’s waistcoat.

For Depeche Mode fans, there is plenty to marvel in: Gahan’s extraordinary voice and electric stage presence present him as perhaps one of our most underrated living frontmen. The final shows in a year-long world tour of over 100 dates, the happiness on Gahan and Martin Gore’s faces make for emotional viewing, reflecting their fans’ ecstasy back out into the crowd.

Still, it’s those six fans that make this film a beautiful, compelling and deeply human one. It would be a shame to tell their stories for them - for that, you should see the film - but one of many insightful quotes paints the idea that for so many, a favourite band can make life eminently more liveable.

L.A. resident Liz would listen to Depeche Mode as she received treatment for a vicious form of breast cancer. Listening gave her strength, as music gives billions of us strength every day: “I’m going to be alive,” she would tell herself as she endured the gruelling radiotherapy, “and I’m going to go to another Depeche Mode concert.”

Spirits In The Forest will show in cinemas worldwide for one night only on 21 November 2019. Tickets can be found here.

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Photo: Anton Corbijn