“The Posters Came from the Walls” Review

1 03 2009

Editor’s note: The following is a review from a Critical Writing and Reviewing student at the University of Missouri.

In case you were unaware, Depeche Mode is kind of a big deal.

That said, “The Posters Came From the Walls” is not about Depeche Mode. It is about fans, the myriad reasons one may become a fan and the ways in which fandom manifests itself. The band (although I think these fans would disagree) is incidental.

The film seems at first to just be about extreme fans who seem just a little nuts. One Russian woman has intricate bead mosaics of band members and a beautifully drawn comic diary depicting her humorous vision of the band’s life. One young California woman watches video of a concert and excitedly points out the moment when Dave Gahan blows her a kiss. A man in New York has license plates that read “DEPECHE” and around 500 Depeche t-shirts. Humorous and interesting, but not significant.

And then somebody mentions the Berlin Wall.

We learn from fans in Romania, East Germany and Russia that the emergence of Depeche Mode’s music coincided with national events that would necessarily change their lives. Three German men reminisce about seeing Depeche Mode at a Free German Youth Concert. The name of this film comes from a headline in an East German newspaper about the concert. It meant that the people in the posters actually appeared. It must have been magical.

Several Romanian and Russian people discuss the revolutions in their respective countries that happened around the time Depeche Mode hit them. For them, the music seems to represent freedom, not just on the national level, but their own personal freedom to be themselves and listen accordingly.

That music can represent personal freedom is shown most clearly by Peyman, an Iranian man who shows the three copies of Depeche Mode tapes he bought on the black market. Purchasing Western music, we are told, is illegal in Iran.

Andy, Peyman’s uncle, is an expatriate. He says he left Iran partly because he feels that he is nothing without music, and did not want to stay in a place where one could be beaten or jailed for listening to Depeche Mode.

Andy proclaims that Americans and the English can take being able to listen to Depeche Mode for granted. One Russian woman declares that Depeche Mode speaks to the transcendence of the Russian soul, and since prophets are always exiled, “English are in no position to understand Depeche Mode”. Despite these protestations, both the U.S. and the U.K. are well represented as überfans in this documentary. Most notably, one British man, Mark, credits Depeche Mode for helping him find his way out of homelessness.

We also get glimpses of Depeche Mode in weird places, like churches and marching bands. In fact, Depeche Mode does not sing much of the music in the film. The fans sing the music exuberantly and in unison. The theme here, however cheesy it may be, is that Depeche Mode can bring people together.

Norm McDonald could only theorize on Saturday Night Live that Germans love David Hasselhoff. Directors Jeremy Deller and Nicholas Abrahams definitively proved that plenty of Germans (as well as Russians, Romanians, Americans and Brazilians) love Depeche Mode. Then they went a step beyond and explained why. The characters these directors dug up are priceless and endearing. They may not convince us that Depeche Mode is the greatest band in the world, but they sure convinced me that they are the greatest fans.

by Megan Becwar

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