Starring– Daktari Lorenz, Beatrice M, Colloseo Schulzendorf
UK release – Arrow Video – OUT NOW
For a film that has only finally been submitted to the BBFC (most recently in 2012 for a special screening at Leeds Film Festival and now through Arrow video) the arrival of NEKROMANTIK over to these shores has been a long wait for fans of the film who have had to put up with 3rd and 4th generation VHS copy’s or ordering it from Europe with the worry of receiving a letter from customs telling them that there VHS (or DVD) has been seized under the obscene publications act. It’s thanks to Arrow who have submitted this for classification, and received a full uncut copy passed by the censors, that we can now finally see Buttgereit’s underground notoriety for the first time in a superbly presented DVD edition that will please fans, and goes to show how Arrow have put in time and effort to create a ‘Criterion DVD’ like edition of this grim, taboo touching film.
It can be said that it would be hard to say NEKROMANTIK is an entertaining watch but even now seeing it again, it still has a grim look to it, and scenes that can still feel uncomfortable and disturbing. Though the story and subject matter is always going to be one of repulsion and in its tale of a crime scene/accident aftermath cleaner, Rob (Lorenz) taking home a corpse from his work to impress his girlfriend Betty (Beatrice M) and the twisted love triangle that ensues and gradual deterioration of Rob’s mental state after Betty leaves him with the corpse, on paper this sounds like it’s going to be a grim watch and it is. The film is and looks like underground cinema, shot on 8mm that captures the damp looking depressing locations, and partly reminded me of another film that featured a central character going through a state of mental self destruction, Buddy Giovinazzo’s COMBAT SHOCK.
Yet this is what I feel works in NEKROMANTIK’s favour, that this wouldn’t look the same shot on a higher film grade, or if made now, on digital video. The rough nature of the film print adds to the decay of the corpses and the characters on screen, making it feel like a gradual, semi-realistic trip into a world populated by characters living on fringes of society and breaking taboos. Added to that Buttgereit does add some dark humorous touches to the film, that breaks up some of the darker scenes and even in the infamous scene featuring Rob and Betty in a ménage a trois with the corpse, he adds a slow motion, soft focus video effect combined with romantic style piano music as a soundtrack accompaniment, almost twisting the scene and taking it that one subversive step forward.
If anything NEKROMANTIK is almost like punk cinema. Subversive, rough, underground and not falling for convention with Buttgereit almost giving a middle finger to the German film censors and society in general (it’s no surprise that this film was negatively received by festival audiences and its sequel, NEKROMANTIK 2 would go onto to be seized by the authority’s), and even if the film does have a strange art house esque feel in some sequences, this is perfectly eschewed by its disturbing sequences and shocking finale. NEKROMANTIK still remains a grim, unsettling film, but in many respects that’s the only outcome and feeling that you will come out with after watching it, which is what it is meant to do.
Arrow has gone all out on delivering a superb line up of features for this first ever release of the film in the UK. Complemented with some superb cover and inlay artwork. The film, presented in both DVD and BLU-Ray dual format, contains a commentary track with Buttgereit, along with an interesting interview with the director highlighting some of the trouble the film received on its release in Germany. On top of that there is a Q and A at the Glasgow Centre for Contemporary Arts filmed last August, a documentary entitled MORBID FASCINATION: THE NEKROMANTIK LEGACY, which features contributions from Alan Jones, and VIDEO NASTIES documentary producer Marc Morris, that consists of talking head interviews and also is a nice insight into the films initial UK screening at Shock Around The Clock at London’s infamous Scala cinema back in 1988. We also get some nice behind the scenes footage that highlights the fun the crew had on set despite the films morbid subject matter, though as Buttgereit confirms this was to break up the tension and the low budget struggle of what they were filming.
There’s also a brief documentary shot at the film’s première in Berlin, a collection of Buttgereit filmed music videos, a trailer reel, and most of all the inclusion of two short films directed by Buttegereit prior to making NEKROMANTIK. HOT LOVE is a funny and delirious tale of a man being jilted in a relationship and the unusual revenge that occurs because of it, and also HORROR HEAVEN a daft and fun horror movie homage, which showcase Buttgereit’s nods to classic horror tales and also contains a nice more evident streak of the director’s strain of humour. There’s still more as the 3rd disc is the soundtrack CD, plus there’s a 100 page booklet featuring writing on the film and an interview with a genuine necrophile.
Overall it’s a package delivered with passion and obvious love for a film that some will probably see as not deserving of this treatment, yet I feel that it’s an important landmark in the post video nasty/1984 video recording act period, where horror fans were subjected to having to watch banned films and unavailable films (like NEKROMANTIK) on poor quality VHS copy’s, and with the threat of having videos confiscated and in some worse cases taken to court over owning CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. A period that sums up the terribly misled and misleading mentality of the authorities, who felt that these banned videos will soon be corrupting our nation’s youth, and whoever owned or sold them was worse than Hitler. Such is the case that we have Arrow to thank for having the balls to go forth to the censors and putting the money up to have this certified uncut, and for delivering a genre fan made package, that further establishes their credibility and reputation as a leading DVD label in genre cinema.