Director: Jörg Buttgereit
Starring: Daktari Lorenz and Beatrice Manowski
Duration: 71 minutes
The lingering sadness that inevitably accompanies all romance films is something I just cannot stand. My whole life I’ve shied away from all that lovey dovey bullshit – for some reason it just makes me feel awkward and uncomfortable. That doesn’t make me a heartless monster, as I do make exceptions when I’m feeling it. Some might disagree with calling Nekromantik a love story; it may not be conventional, but it’s a heartbreaking tale. This controversial cult film has been subject to oppression in many countries after being banned due to explicit and disturbing content, but last year the BBFC reclassified it as an 18 uncut, therefore allowing me to purchase this shocking film and indulge in a little dead romantic courtship.
Robert works at a street cleaning agency where they have the gruesome pleasure of cleaning up grisly crime scenes or deaths, and disposing of the bodies, or what’s left of them. It’s pretty much the perfect job for a necrophiliac – no, not necrophile, look up the differences, it might just save you your corpse virginity – as these lifeless bodies are just looking for a new home. What wife wants flowers when they can have a rotting carcass instead? Betty is delighted at the gift from her husband and they prepare for a cheeky threesome with their new toy, by creating a penis to be ridden from a metal pole with a condom on it. What could possibly go wrong? Well, except for getting myiasis, the corpse causes some serious relationship issues that end in betrayal, heartbreak and despair.
When you tell people you’re casually sitting down to watch a film entitled Nekromantik, they give you this look that asks, “Are you actually into fucking dead bodies?” Nah mate, I’m fucking not, you absolute cretin. Anyway. The concept of necrophilia is a sickening, yet strangely intriguing one to many of us – curiosity of something you’ve never desired yet others do is a trait we all hold. It’s clear that Betty and Rob’s obsession with the dead could come from an inner fear of death, as discussed in a scene where Rob watches an interview with a psychiatrist about arachnophobia, and how exposure may be the only cure for extreme phobias. This theory is reinstalled by a particularly distressing, recurring past memory of Rob’s where his beloved pet bunny has its throat slit and then is flayed, presumably by his father or someone.
Obviously, one of the main reasons this film is both regarded as contentious and adored by many is the continuous theme of making love to a deceased person paired with bloody violence that doesn’t restrict itself to humans or animals. As the film opens we’re thrown into the bloodshed with a horrific car accident scene, which leaves the passengers feeling torn in two. Rob and Betty own quite the collection of various body parts and other anomalies stored in formaldehyde, although it’s hardly a display of interest, it’s more like the behind the scenes quarters of St Guy’s hospital. Franz Rodenkirchen should be hailed for his incredible special effects work on this film, along with the creative minds of both Buttgereit and Lorenz, as together they produced the corpse that awkwardly takes centre stage. The dripping, decaying and downright dirty corpse is a work of art in itself as it realistically resembles that of a body in the process of rotting away, along with a solemn sadness that seems to accompany death. Seeing Betty relish in writhing all over the body whilst this putrid slime covers her is something of a nightmare to us, and an erotic fantasy to her. Honestly, the effects in this film are so spot-on you have to nudge yourself half way through.
There are two outstanding and climatic scenes that are prominently what shocked audiences and critics alike, that although are the epitome of horror, manage to encompass the truth of love and lust. The first is the emotional and in-depth love making threesome and the second is the erotic yet mentally scarring climax, which involves self-mutilation and a lot of some suspect white substance. Both these dramatic scenes are transgressed to the beautiful melodies created by Hermann Kopp, John Walton and Lorenz. There’s something ever so romantic and mesmerising about the scores used within the soundtrack, which touches on how this truly is a depressing love tale of the ultimate deception; a man left by his wife for a foul and rancid corpse. The adverse effect of forcing the audience to see the revolting scenes whilst listening to lullabies really contorts the senses and causes the brain to divulge into crossing that line between pleasure and pain.
The only slight aspect that I didn’t fully enjoy was having to bear witness to the upsetting rabbit slaughter scenes, however, the killing was clearly performed by a trained rabbit breeder who ended its life as humanely as possible. Compared to some of the brutality displayed towards animals in Italian films, this is rather tame; therefore it didn’t change the course of my opinion. There’s also the part where the he takes that saying about swinging cats around in bags a little too seriously, but fortunately that was pure trickery and we never see the cat actually harmed.
Nekromantik is a film that was purely created in order to rebel against the societal norms of Germany, and also the film rating system, which can be undeservedly harsh. Censorship is an important concern to many film buffs alike, due to the fact that as adults we should be able to make conscious decisions as to whether or not we view material that others may deem potentially psychologically damaging. Horror seeps at every crevice, defining it as a horror film, but everywhere you look there’s symbolism of some form that also categorises this film as an art piece. The ominous cadaver is a vessel for the couple’s obvious fears over death and the end. It’s been a long time since a film evoked a medley of emotions in me and made me wonder who might rape and violate my body once it’s nothing but a pile of rotting viscera. Nekromantik is an unforgettable tale of death, love, lust, bereavement and self loathing; love it or hate it, you won’t be able to deny the power it holds.
Verdict: 5 out of 5
If you’re interested, I got this beautiful limited edition boxset of Nekromantik that includes some mind-blowing artwork, over at Arrow.