Digital Dismemberment: Nekromantik Special Edition Blu-Ray Review
Director: Jorg Buttgereit
Producer: Manfred O. Jelinski
Special Effects: Jorg Buttgereit, M. Roden Kirchen, Bernd Daktari Lorenz and Franz Rodenkirchen
Cast: Daktari Lorenz, Beatrice Manowski, Harald Lundt, Colloseo Schulzendorf, Henri Boeck, Clemens Schwender, Jorg Buttgereit, Holger Suhr, Volker Hauptvogel, Harald Weis, Heike Surban, Suza Kohlstedt
Released By: Cult Epics
Release Date: 10/07/2014
The controversial horror film that shocked the world in 1987, when it was banned in Germany, censored in Japan and simultaneously became a huge underground hit in the US (now long out of print.) Nekromantik tells the story of Rob, who works at a street-cleaning Agency and visits roadside accidents to clean up the scene. Incidentally, Rob collects the body parts and shares them with his girlfriend Beatrice. When Rob presents a complete corpse taken out of a swamp, their undying love reaches its peak. But soon after, Betty gets more of a liking towards the corpse and leaves Rob, which takes him to the sick end of his destruction.
With the amount of graphic gore and violence, not withstanding the tremendously offensive and gross subject matter, Buttgereit’s film manages to shock and awe you at the same time.
Looking at it strictly from a technical standpoint, the film is certainly something to marvel at. Shot on an extremely low budget and with friends, the film almost has a home movie feel about it. Buttgereit handles the majority of the tasks himself, from the writing, directing, acting, editing, casting, set design, camera work and special FX. From a societal standpoint, the film touches upon several topics, including the German working class, depression, the desensitization of violence in film and television, sexual dysfunction and fetish.
The odd thing about this film is how you start to empathize with the character of Rob — not from the standpoint of agreeing with what he does, but how his upbringing and emotional collapse pull you in. Not being able to have a relationship with anyone living and having his only “toy” being taken away by the woman that he loves, he basically collapses upon himself in the most masochistic of ways. His losses are so soul crushing that he becomes one of the dead at his own hands, with the film implying that his corpse is now to become the whim of someone else.
The film opens on a couple driving down the road and becoming involved in an accident that kills both passengers. The next day, we see the car at the accident scene, replete with the driver dead behind the wheel and the passenger torn in half outside of the car. A street cleaning team shows up, and that is where we meet Rob. His co-workers do not seem to like him, and we can see his job hangs by a thread. The flat that he shares with his girlfriend Betty has jars of pickled body parts that adorn the shelves, pictures of famous murders hang from the walls alongside of centerfolds of models. Rob continuously brings home new parts to add to their collection, all to her approval.
While Betty bathes in the bathtub of bloody water, Rob watches TV and has odd flashbacks to his childhood, including the skinning of a rabbit and a dreamlike scene of him conducting an autopsy on a corpse. There almost seems to be a dulling apathy in their relationship until Rob brings home a corpse that he finds on the job in a swamp. (The corpse belongs to a man that is accidentally killed when a neighbor is careless with an air rifle and shoots him off of a ladder. The man later disposes of the body in the swamp, presumably never to be seen again.) He brings the corpse home and presents it to her as a gift. There is a certain gleam in their eyes as they explore the corpse that degenerates into debauchery in its most primal form: sex.
You can see the obvious lust in their eyes as the modify the corpse for her use (sawing a piece of pipe for a phallus and placing a condom on it so that she can have sex with it). Rob at first watches and then joins in as everything breaks down into a threesome. The general attitude of the couple seems to improve, and in a scene as ghastly as the menage a trois, they sit down to a meal that may or may not be comprised of a body part in the refrigerator, all while the corpse hangs from the wall and oozes various fluids of decomposition into bowls placed all around it.
Things appear to be in a state of bliss, but while Rob is still at work, Betty continues to have her way with the corpse, reading love stories and talking to it. Things continue along as she verbally and physically woos the corpse and has sex with it again. Viewing this from an outside perspective lets you see this as an almost adulterous affair behind Rob’s back (granted, HE was the one that brought it home for THEIR enjoyment together, but Betty continues the amorous “affair” behind his back), and when he is fired from his job (for keeping dirty uniforms in his locker and being late for work), Betty emasculates him for not standing up for himself and leaves him, taking the corpse with her.
Rob begins to break down mentally (even further than he all ready is). He kills their cat and guts it, rubbing it blood and innards all over himself while in the bath tub. He tries to make the best of his situation and goes to see a movie but is bullied by another patron and leaves. He goes home and in desperation, tries to kill himself with booze and pills. He falls asleep instead and has weird dreams of himself as a corpse in a trash bag, followed by a young woman giving him a severed head (they dance and frolic in the park, tossing the head and entrails back and forth amongst themselves in joy).
Rob awakens and decides to hire a prostitute. They meet in a cemetery and while Rob tries his best, he finds that he can not perform sexually. The prostitute, thinking the entire situation is funny, begins to mock him until he becomes enraged and strangles her to death with his bare hands. He finds himself aroused and begins to have sex with her corpse until he is discovered by a gardener, who he decapitates with a shovel.
Depressed and at the end of his rope, he heads home and — in one of the most extreme moments ever put to film — commits suicide by stabbing himself in the stomach several times with a large knife while masturbating, dying in ecstasy and horrid pain while fountains of blood and cum flow from his body. The film ends as we see Rob’s tombstone and a visitor: a woman’s foot clad in high heels and stockings.
Special Features and Extras
Grindhouse 35mm HD Version with an introduction by Jorg Buttgereit (2013): (The introduction lasts 1 minute 35 seconds, with the film being its original running time of 75 minutes) The film can be watched with and without the introduction (which was done at a screening of the 35mm print at Beyond Fest held at the Egyptian Theater October 24th, 2013). Jorge discusses how the film was shot on Super 8mm, transferring it 16mm and then blew it up to 35mm. He goes on to say that this version is how he always wanted the film to look. The movie certainly has more of a “grindhouse” look and feel to it and in many ways gives the film more of a haunting look. A nice extra feature that allows you to see the film in another way.
Q & A With Jorg Buttgereit (2013): (Run time of 40 minutes) This is the Q & A that took place at Beyond Fest held at the Egyptian Theater October 24th, 2013 that includes scenes from the film. Jorg talks about the making of Nekromantik 1 and 2 (as well as Schramm), the problems he had with the government in Germany for the releases of the films, the concept of how the films came together, the lack of dialogue in the film, the many hats and problems (from the technical end) that came with making Nekromantik and more. The audience also asks several questions, and Jorg shows a great comedic range while answering. He also covers censorship in Germany quite extensively as well. Really fantastic insight to the film and the man who made it. Top notch and well worth watching.
The Making of Nekromantik: (Run time of 13 minutes) A very nice look behind the scenes about the making of Nekromantik. There is a wealth of behind the scenes stills and video footage of the cast and crew while making the film as well as a running dialogue/interview with Jorg Buttgereit where he goes into great detail about the meaning and making of the film (including the corpse design, the script, set locations, FX make-up, the actors and actresses). Listening to him, you can certainly tell that this was a passionate project for him and he treats the subject matter with tremendous respect. There are also a few blooper scenes included as well. Again, a very nice look at the making of the film and it really helps to give some context to the project.
Nekromantik Featurette: (Run time of 9 minutes 22 seconds) This is a German interview with Jorg Buttgereit detailing the technical aspects of Nekromantik that utilizes scenes from the film and home footage not used in the Making of Nekromantik featurette. He really goes into detail on the script and the difficulties of finding a cast that could convey what he wanted on the screen. He talks about the problems he had with the screening in Norway and the different cuts of the film on home video depending on what country it is shown in as well as what some of the cast and crew did after the release of film. Highly informative and captivating.
Still Photo Gallery: 101 different photos and stills in color and black & white from the film.
Hot Love HD with Commentary by Jorg Buttgereit: (Run time of 30 minutes) The short can be watched with or without commentary by Jorg Buttgereit. A short that predates Nekromantik and stars Daktari Lorenz, it tells the tale of a young man that is in love with a women who dumps him for a new guy. Crushed, he vows revenge and rapes her, impregnating her with a monster baby that winds up murdering her with an axe. A great short that shows Buttgereit’s skill even before Nekromantik, and you can even here where the basis of Nekromantik’s soundtrack came from with this short. Bloody, passionate and unrelenting, well worth watching and discussing. Film makers looking to break into the industry can learn plenty from watching this and seeing how emotional content can be show without lots of dialogue and almost no budget.
Hot Love Featurette: (Run time of 3 minutes 30 seconds): A black and white look back at the screening of Hot Love in Germany, with comments from the crowd and musical numbers by Daktari Lorez. Primarily in German. A nice look back at the early start of Buttgereit’s career.
JB Trailers: Trailers from Jorg Buttgereit’s films, including Nekromantik HD (2 Minutes), Nekromantik 2 (1 Minute 5 Seconds), Der Todesking (2 Minutes 20 Seconds), Schramm (1 Minute 30 Seconds) and Hot Love (1 Minute 12 seconds).
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Limited Edition Nekromantik artwork print by Johnny Ryan
Limited Edition Nekromantik Photo of Beatrice M.
Aspect Ratio: 1080p High Definition Widescreen (1.33:1)
Language: German with Subtitles
Cult Epics has done an amazing job releasing what is widely considered one of the most controversial films of all time! There have been several fantastic DVD releases for Nekromantik, in particular the Barrel Entertainment editions (both in 1 and 2 disc versions) and the Arrow Films 3 Disc Limited Edition Blu-Ray (that includes other short films, the soundtrack and collectors book). But the pinnacle right now is the Blu-Ray release from Cult Epics.
The addition of TWO versions of the film (a new Director’s approved HD transfer from the original Super 8mm negative and a “Grindhouse” HD version from the theatrical 35mm print) is phenomenal all on its own, and the introduction from Jorg Buttgereit, the Q &A with the director at the American Cinematheque (2013), The Making of Nekromantik, Nekromantik featurette, still photo gallery, trailers from Buttgereit’s other films, the never before released short film Hot Love in HD along with commentary and featurette as well as the the soundtrack from Nekromantik make this a must own. The limited edition prints from the film are a nice touch as well.
Everything about this makes it a must have, and I’m looking forward to more releases from Cult Epics soon!
Movie Rating: 5 out of 5
DVD Rating: 10 out of 10