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NEKROMANTIK

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Daktari Lorenz, Beatrice M.
Director:  Jorg Buttgereit
Audio:  Dolby Mono
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Barrel Entertainment
Features:  See Review
Length:  75 Minutes
Release Date:  June 13, 2000

Film **

There come times in every film critic’s career when he has to accept the fact that when he rates a movie, he’s not only telling about the film…he’s telling about himself.  Sometimes it’s easy to slap a star rating on a picture and move on.  Nekromantik has proven to be far more difficult.  It was more than asking myself whether or not I liked the picture…it was considering what liking or disliking the picture was saying about me.

Did I cop out with a middle of the road two-star rating?  No, I don’t think so.  After much thought and soul searching, it seemed the only feasible score.  Jorg Buttgereit pushes the envelope in many ways, but he does so with far less thoughtfulness than in his later movie Schramm (also available on disc from Barrel Entertainment).  It comes up with imaginative and effective ways to shock, but it’s driven by a story line that barely seems more than a clothesline for its sequences.  The characters are fascinating and repulsive in equal amounts, but at no point do they actually earn the right to take us on this monstrous journey with them.

As the title implies, the film is about necrophilia.  The main characters are Robert (Lorenz) and Betty (Beatrice M.).  Robert is employed as a street cleaner; sometimes his job involves the removal of bodies from the scenes of accidents (a rather grisly opening scene provides him with just such an opportunity).  He collects body parts for himself and his girlfriend.  He keeps them in jars.  Sometimes, the couple uses them in their sexual activities; other times, as we see, they like to bathe in the blood they provide.

The film gets even more bizarre when Robert brings home a rotted, waterlogged corpse, which seems to add an element of spice to their love life.  But when Robert’s odd behavior leads to his dismissal from his job, Betty quickly loses interest.  Without his work, there will be no more toys for him to bring home.  She leaves him…and takes the corpse.

This all leads to a climactic scene that defies description…or at least, defies my ability to place into words suitable for print.  One can only say there may not be another filmmaker around with the imagination of Buttgereit.  That’s possibly a blessing.

What does it all mean?  Is there a point to all of this?  This film lacks the psychological prodding of Schramm.  It weakly suggests that an childhood incident of Robert’s influenced his tastes and behaviors:  this is a rather repulsive scene of a rabbit being killed, skinned and gutted.  In the commentary track, we learn from Buttgereit that he envisioned this was Robert’s father killing his son’s beloved pet.  That distinction is not made in the film, so the sequence becomes yet another detached foray into gruesomeness than neither edifies nor exposits.

Yet, for all the flaws and the decidedly disgusting subject matter, I had to admire Buttgereit’s chutzpah in making the film at all.  The question of whether or not the world needed a movie like Nekromantik is debatable, but one can’t deny the sense that the director was going for broke in scene after scene.  I don’t know whether to applaud his actors’ courage or pity their desperation for taking part in these rituals, but I would like to mention that Daktari Lorenz delivered a rather good performance given the film’s limitations.  Something about his intensity reminded me of a young Udo Kier.  At any rate, he never shied away from the horrific nature of his role, but rather, dove right in with an almost insane sense of abandonment.

Horror fans should be grateful that Barrel has presented an uncut and uncensored version of Nekromantik for DVD release.  No matter what you think of the subject matter, it’s always best to see movies as the directors intended.  This picture, in complete form, can at least stand for or against Jorg Buttgereit.  You be the judge.

Although, I’d like to add, if you find the subject matter of this movie titillating in the least, I don’t want to know you.

Video *1/2

Full frame is the right aspect ratio for this picture, shot on 16 mm film, but unfortunately, it suffers from all the usual 16 mm limitations.  Colors are sometimes good, but mostly a little washed.  Low budget film stock means grain, grain and more grain (as the only way it can demonstrate contrast), and this is no exception.  Some darker scenes suffer quite a bit from it, as well as softer looking images with only poor-to-fair detail quality.  All in all, this is probably the best this film has ever looked, and also probably the best it ever will.  I can’t imagine a studio plopping down a cool million for a digital restoration of Nekromantik.

Audio **

The soundtrack is the original German one, so it’s kind of hard to judge it based on dialogue quality.  Overall, it sounds like what you’d expect for a low budget film…nothing more, nothing less.  Passable, but certainly not exemplary.

Features ****

The features are where this disc really excels, and what horror fans will be most happy about.  The commentary track features director Buttgereit and co-author Franz Rodenkirchen, and is an entertaining listen.  Both men speak English quite well, and have many stories to tell.  Buttgereit points out that just because they put certain things in the movie, it doesn’t mean they are things they enjoy seeing…thank goodness for that!  There is also an early Buttgereit film, Horror Haven, which is quite a trip to watch.  There is a reflective interview that incorporates newer interviews with some outtakes, and a making-of featurette with behind-the-scenes footage.  There is an extensive photo gallery, and a number of trailers to round it all out. 

Summary:

Nekromantik may stimulate your gag reflex, but it won’t do a whole lot for your mind, or hopefully, your libido.  This horror classic is reputed the world over for its shock value, and if you’re a fan of the genre, this DVD might be the chance for you to see what the hype is all about.  You have been warned.