Documentary Review: Depeche Mode gathers the faithful for “Spirits of the Forest”


Well, isn’t this the most adorable damned concert doc you ever saw?

“Spirits of the Forest” captures Depeche Mode at the finale to their 2017-18 “Global Spirit” in Berlin. It’s a multi-media spectacle in the modern concert style, with the fellows showing their years and miles, but still tight and lead singer David Gahan still in fine voice.

But it’s a show basically as seen by a chosen half-dozen of their most devoted fans, people mostly in their 30s and 40s who relate what the music has meant to them, music they’re passing on to their children or in one case, have passed down by their Internet concert-watching dad in Outer Mongolia.

They are from France and Berlin (by way of Brazil), Colombia, Romania, Los Angeles and Mongolia.

One had grueling bouts of depression and even amnesia. Another had a breast cancer scare, after growing up as the only black kid in her school who listened to Depeche Mode.

One had to leave his homeland to find the courage to come out. Another group up under totalitarianism. One divorced and saw his kids move far away.

And did I mention on is in Mongolia, for Pete’s Sake?

The thing that connects them, got them through, is the music of the band whose dark, electronic-flavored tunes range from cute (“Just Can’t Get Enough”) to droll and edgy (“Personal Jesus”).

A Depeche Mode show “is like going to the best church you’ve never been to,” one of our narrators declares.

Colombian Dicken bonded with his kids over their cute Youtube covers or the band’s songs done on toy instruments, which gave them a global following.

LA Liz endured her chemo with the New Wave faves of her youth.

Concert doc vet turned feature director (“Control,” “The American”) Anton Corbijn captures the drama of a show in Berlin, “the Depeche Mode capital of the world,” epic sing alongs to “Never Let Me Down Again,” “All I Ever Wanted” or “People are People.”

The concert footage is very much of a piece with all the other New Wave bands still touring, with Gahan’s theatricality making up for bandmates who were never all that animated when they were young rock stars.

I was never much of a fan of that whole synth-drenched era, to be honest. But their songs stand out enough to make them worth revisiting for their sophistication, dark sexuality, depth and occasional political relevance. Gahan singing their recent single, “Where’s the Revolution, come on people you’re letting me down” stings.

The tunes hold up and these fans, in Corbijn’s brisk, short and sweet film, give you a hint as to why they’re still a big deal and what they get out of a band that makes them relevent enough to keep them coming back, and to want to pass that passion on to their kids.


MPAA Rating: unrated, some profanity

Cast: Indra Amarjargal, Daniel Cassus, Cristian Flueraru,Carine Puzena, Dicken Schrader and Depeche Mode

Credits: Directed by Anton Corbijn, with John Merizalde and Pasqual Gutierrez. A 1091 release.

Running time: 1:20


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