“Death is just the Beginning.”
1988 – NR – 71 Minutes – Cult Epics
Starring Bernd Daktari Lorenz, Beatrice Manowski, Harald Lundt – Directed by Jorg Buttgeriet
Everyone has a fetish or a fear. Some are, to say the least, weird and that’s putting it lightly. Having sex with dead bodies? Yeah, that’s… that’s definitely weird. To center your movie around it? Yup, totally weird. So you can see why a movie called NEKRomantik, a title that implies romance with necrophilia, would be controversial. Now that I mention it, this is quite a controversial movie and rightfully so. It’s one of the few films that has earned it’s reputation and status alongside something like Salo. It’s a movie that starts with a crudely hand written warning and then on to something even more memorable…
And what better way to start off your film with an old woman pissing (talking about leaving an everlasting first impression, movie). To be fair, that’s lightly setting the tone for this film and things get a whole hell of a lot harder to watch. Shortly thereafter, she and her husband drive their car off the side of the road and die in a horrific accident. The next morning, Joe’s Cleaning Agency is called to the scene to clean up the grisly mangled bodies. Seems like something the police coroners would do, but then again this is Germany. Among these fellows is Rob, who really seems to love his job due to his ghastly obsession; necrophilia! This job allows Rob to take things from the scenes, like an organ here or there (you know, nothing that would clearly be missing…). He brings these home to add to his collection he and his girlfriend Betty have. Yes, even these two managed to find each. I wonder if there is a dating website for necrophiliacs?
While Betty baths in blood, Rob sits on the bed and plays with human organs while watching a program about overcoming phobias, which coincidentally enough does poetically tie into the film some way. While watching the program, Rob has a flashback of an older man who we assume is his father butchering his pet rabbit when he was a child. I have to admit I had trouble sitting through this scene since the rabbit was actually killed. I’m all for filmmaking, but I don’t believe an animal should have to die for your movie. This is intertwined with cuts of a man performing an autopsy on a human and I don’t know who either of them are or how or if it’s related to what’s going on or with Rob… let’s just move on. We could be here all day psychoanalyzing this film.
Luckily due to some drunk redneck taking popshots at birds with a rifle and accidentally killing a nearby gardener (and after ditching the body in a pond), Rob pulls off the ultimate score and brings home Betty their very own corpse! The two love birds rub the goopy cadaver all over, kiss it, then each other and then… oh no… why is Rob cutting a metal pipe that for some reason looks phallic like to size?! No, why are they attaching it to the dead body’s groin?! Well, at least they are safe about it. Betty slips a condom over the “instrument” and the two (or should I say three) go at it. The scene is shot with a blur effect making it dream like or almost like an outer body experience.
Ah, things seem to be going fine for the love birds and their new “toy” that they’ve hung on the wall with plates underneath to catch the dripping fluids (ew). Nothing could spoil this positive upswing. Or could it? Due to his constant tardiness and stinky overalls being left in his locker, Rob is fired from his job, but luckily he has kind, loving Betty there to emotionally support him. Once she stops straddling the corpse and reading love novels to it, she yells at Rob, calling him weak and that she doesn’t want to spend her better years with a loser. Shortly after, Rob returns home to find a note from Betty saying that she took the corpse and split. I know how you feel, man. My ex took the cat when she left. Harsh.
Rob spirals into depression and goes through all the things one goes through when they are down; heads to the theater to catch a slasher movie, kills the cat, tries to commit suicide with whiskey and pills, strangles a hooker and then defiles the corpse in a cemetery. You know, the classics. Upon being woken by a strange old man after killing the hooker, Rob decapitates the old man with a shovel, which results in a greatly grotesque effect (think Bad Taste) and after fleeing the scene, Rob realizes there is nothing left and there is only one way out as the film reaches its, dare I say, “climax”.
With the quotes around that word and given the nature of this film, I’m sure you realize what I’m talking about. But brother once you see it, you can’t unsee it.
There is an unclean feeling you’re left with after viewing NEKRomantik, which goes without saying. Rob has a pretty sick fetish that you would normally dislike a person for, but the way he is portrayed by Daktari Lorenz is more sympathetic, even when he is defiling a corpse or murdering a lady of the evening. He and Betty seem like that totally normal couple, except for, ya know, that one thing… Though the narrative and the uniquely striking way it’s shot, everything about it is like looking into something that on the surface appears normal, but there is something sad and tragic about it, even though we never truly learn what that may be.
There is quite a bit of shocking, and at time fortuitous, imagery. Perhaps even more strange about it is that it simultaneously takes you out of the moment, yet keeps you connected. As much as you want to look away, you can’t avert your gaze. You get where I’m going with this. For every negative about the film, there seems to be a positive that contradicts it. Writer/director Jorg Buttgereit found that balance between horrible and beautiful. Just about every little thing is this film is saying something about who we are as people. The scene where Rob goes to watch the slasher movie, for example. Everyone in the theater is groping their girlfriends, talking or drinking a beer while people are being tortured, sexually abused and slaughtered. Along with the entire tone of the film and what it’s about, is it saying we have become completely desensitized to sex and violence in media? Ow, my brain! Stop making me think, movie!
Of course it’s not all pretty. There are periods when the film does seem to drag during some of these scenes, but just as your about to get sick of watching it (if you haven’t already), the shot changes. Without a whole lot of dialogue in the film, your left to the imagery and what they are trying to connect to fully tell the story and some people may not be able to completely pay attention to this. It does require your full attention and once Betty leaves Rob during the second half of the film, it starts to feel like it’s beginning to drag as the story continues. This is most likely because we watch Rob literally putter around and slowly mentally deteriorate even further than he already is. The movie is only a short 71 minutes long, but it’s during this final part of the film where it feels like it’s breaking the two hour mark.
Given all the film’s content and how disgusting and morally corrupt you could claim it is, I have to say, the film is somehow beautifully artistic about it. Cult Epics has recently released NEKRomantik on Blu-ray and you certainly get a bang for your buck. Not only do you get an HD approved transfer from the original 8mm prints, but you also get a “Grindhouse” HD version taken from the 35mm theatrical print for a more gritty look, which adds that extra layer of filth to it. Make note, although it has been restored, this was an extremely low budget film, so there is still quite a bit of grain and dullness, but what do you expect? It’s not exactly IMAX here. You also get a few featurettes, including a ‘making of,’ Q & A with Jorg Buttgereit as well as an introduction to the film from him. He also provides an audio commentary to the film along with co-author Franz Rodenkirchen. Perhaps the “hottest” of all the bonus features is the never before released short Hot Love, which also includes a commentary and its very own featurette. Top it all off with the original motion picture soundtrack and you have yourself one hell of a Special Edition and since it’s limited to 10,000, you may wanna grab a copy real quick.
I know I’ve said this before, but it is more true here than it has ever been; NEKRomantik is NOT for everyone. Not even die hard horror fans. You have to be looking for a film that is beyond disgusting and sleazy, yet somehow mesmerizing. It embraces the moments of silence, only playing a fairly haunting soundtrack, depicting scenes of vile acts of weird perversion involving organs and gore, but tying it together with loneliness, the want for love and becoming completely lost in your life. Jorg Buttgereit tells an freakish and bemused story, while it may not be for everyone, those who do find an interest in it will adore it.