Originally published on this site here, in Italian.
Original title: NEKRomantik
Produced by: Manfred O. Jelinski
Directed by: Jörg Buttgereit
Written by: Jörg Buttgereit; Franz Rodenkirchen
Cinematography by: Uwe Bohrer
Edited by: Jörg Buttgereit; Manfred O. Jelinski
Music by: Herman Kopp; Bernd Daktari Lorenz; John Boy Walton
Special effects and Make-up: Jörg Buttgereit; Bernd Daktari Lorenz, M. Rodenkirchen; Franz Rodenkirchen
Running time: approximately 71 minutes
Budget: less than 5.000 $ (source: Hig Def Digest); 1,25 $, a pack of smokes and a florescent condom (ironic, but maybe not too much – source: The Digital Bits)
WARNING – THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
Germany, year 1987. While the GDR is experiencing the final stages of Sovietism, West Germany has experienced re-industrialization, renewed prosperity, and the consumption economy. West Berlin is the “showcase of the West”. But perhaps, deep down, in the collective unconscious, there is still something unsaid, removed, disturbing.
In particular, Jörg Buttgereit, a young and active German director, doesn’t like film censorship1. He decides to shoot a movie, with the help of Manfred Jelinski as a producer and a small troupe of real pioneers.
The result is Nekromantik: a terribly uncomfortable, profound, cult movie.
Released in just three theatres2, it is said to have passed from hand to hand, in VHS format, among horror and necrophilia enthusiasts of the worst video libraries of Germany.
The censorship, having noticed its existence, has made havoc for years. Its sequel, Nekromantik 2, will be seized: a treatment that was not reserved for a movie since the Nazi era3.
The plot is quite thin, but supported by setting, special effects, atmosphere, possible political readings.
Rob Schmadtke (Bernd Daktari Lorenz) works in a cleaning company specialized in road accidents and crime scenes. His job is to recover the bodies and the poor remains in the surroundings.
This work is the ideal for Rob, who indulges in necrophilia and collects shreds of human bodies and organs at home.
Rob has a partner, Betty (Beatrice Manowski, here as “Beatrice M.”), also a lover of necrophilia and special baths in human blood.
One day, Rob finds a corpse (more or less) intact and manages to take it home. The sudden arrival of a third element in the couple will lead to tremendous upheavals.
This is the plot in its essentiality, but as we said there is more.
The setting is a mix of country roads, outskirt houses and the suburb where Rob and Betty live, which we can see in a short, intimate shot of a breakfast in the kitchen with bright colors.
There’s a particular scene, apparently disconnected from the rest of the style of the movie: in a forest of terraced houses, an accident with a rifle is the event from which the future finding of the corpse results.
Bright colors, ironically triumphal music, everyday life, a clear blue sky, a lot of light. The most immediate reference is to the genre of the heimatfilm, those old movies that, between the patriotic and the propagandistic (“heimat” in German means “home”), populated the television of West Germany.
Here, the unfolding of events in this scene configures an express and direct criticism both of hematfilm and of the comforting propaganda of a pristine, safe and comfortable homeland.
Another interesting scene is the one set in the theatre.
Left alone, Rob goes to a cinema where they are projecting a horror film, “Vera“, so shabby as to seem a parody.
Indeed, rather than seeming a parody, it is a parody! And indeed, as in the best slasher parodies, the killer pops out from all sides and once the victim (a blonde girl in a white dress) is captured, the film in the film seems to be about to turn into a porn.
In the room, boredom reigns supreme: the people are all between yawning and laughing; a young critic smokes, writes notes, smiles smug and hilarious.
Rob, for his part, gets so bored that at some point he gets up and leaves.
Here, what would have been a more or less useless scene elsewhere here is a small, well-made, metacinematographic parody of the most popular horror movies in those years (and, if you wish, with a quote at the beginning of the sequence).
In the rest of the movie, the gray and the anonymous pervade every set except the house, in which the already said jars with fetishes, human bones used as ornaments, and above all the corpse, hang like a Christ in the middle of the room, dominate.
The effects are in fact the strong point of this film, and the corpse in particular: ashen, rigid, rich in fluid and blood secretions. The scenes of the embraces have rightly become real icons.
One thing that might seem imprecise concerns the working methods of the JSA (the cleaning company for which Rob works): the workers in fact do not use gloves, and handle the corpses covered with blood and the organs scattered on the ground with bare hands. However, this could also aim to element to increase disgust in the viewer: the boss’s own office, after all, is kept in a questionable way at least.
In a movie that would “only” have to shock the audience and make fun of the censorship, the main character is unusually deep. A trauma haunts him: as a child, in fact, he had witnessed the slaughter of his favorite bunny by what appears to be his father4.
The flashes of this experience emerge several times, and show us a tormented man, alone with the ghosts of his past.
The surrounding context reflects this concern: psychiatrists on talk shows talk about phobias and crime news; the streets are a place of accidents, rapes and murders; an accident or a fit of anger are enough to become an assassin.
Is this the “showcase of the West”?!
No, what you see in this movie is a country on the verge of collapse, prey to old ghosts.
And the ending is a lament full of pain. For a lost love, for a lost childhood.
The childhood of Rob. The childhood, perhaps, of Germany.
Nekromantik is more than just a horror movie. It’s a scream against government censorship. It is a movie with impressive effects at times. It is a disturbing and emotional movie.
To be seen at least once in a lifetime.
Electric Sheep Magazine – http://www.electricsheepmagazine.co.uk/features/2014/12/15/nekromantik-interview-with-jorg-buttgereit/ (last visit 25/08/2017)
English Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nekromantik_2 (last visit 25/08/2017)
Girls And Corpses – http://girlsandcorpses.com/issue12_nekromantik.html (last visit 25/08/2017)
Hig Def Digest – http://bluray.highdefdigest.com/13414/nekromantik.html (last visit 18/08/2017)
The Digital Bits – https://www.thedigitalbits.com/site_archive/reviews/nekromantik.html (last visit 18/08/2017)
The New Flesh – https://thenewfleshfilm.wordpress.com/2016/10/22/31-days-of-horror-2016-day-21-nekromantik-1987/ (last visit 25/08/2017)
- Slaughter is taken from the truth, it is not a special effect. Apparently, however, it should not have been shot specifically for the movie, but only inserted in it. On this point: https://thenewfleshfilm.wordpress.com/2016/10/22/31-days-of-horror-2016-day-21-nekromantik-1987/ and http://www.electricsheepmagazine.co.uk/features/2014/12/15/nekromantik-interview-with-jorg-buttgereit/.