Friday, 19 December 2014

Nekromantik (1988)

Where do I start with this one?
Probably in 1988, which is when I saw it for the first (and only time until now) at the Shock Around the Clock Film festival at the legendary Scala cinema in Kings Cross. In those days, festivals were all nighters, and it was probably appropriate that NEKROMANTIK was the final film, as nothing could have competed with it for shock value. So it was that I and several hundred other people were witness to Jorg Buttgereit's tale of filth and woe (and yes, necrophilia) at about six o'clock on a Sunday morning. It certainly woke us all up.

Rob (Daktari Lorenz) works for 'Joe’s Street Cleaning Agency' which specialises in tidying up the dead bodies after road traffic accidents. But Rob doesn't adhere strictly to health and safety directives, instead bringing various bits and pieces back to his squalid flat for him and his girlfriend Betty (Beatrice M) to enjoy. When a young man dies in a bizarre gardening accident (I don't think they're referencing Spinal Tap but this is such an odd film who knows) Rob brings the entire corpse home and various necrophiliac antics ensue. When Betty gets fed up with Rob and leaves, taking her dead lover with her, it's the cue for Rob to embark on an existential journey that is a mixture of arthouse and extremely uncomfortable obscene cinema as we only really get to see from European film-makers.

NEKROMANTIK is not for everyone. In fact I'd go so far as to say it's hardly for anyone. However, if such classic Euro-endurance tests as CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, A SERBIAN FILM and THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE PARTS 1 & 2 are your cup of tea then you'll probably get something out of this one as well. Just like those movies, time has not diminished its effect - NEKROMANTIK is still as weird, disgusting and shocking as I remember it. The only difference on watching it this time was I got the sense that some of it was intended to be funny but in a way that just makes it all the more disturbing. As well as all the (faked) horrors, a rabbit gets slaughtered and skinned close to the beginning so animal lovers should beware.
Arrow's presentation of NEKROMANTIK is remarkable. In fact, I was almost as shocked by the number of extras on here as I was by the film. The three disc set includes the film on both Blu-ray and DVD. Blu-ray isn't really the medium for a grungefest shot on super 8mm, but it does look a lot better than the 'Grindhouse Presentation' that's also included here.

By the far the best of these is a hugely nostalgic documentary for those of us who saw the movie at the Scala as Alan Jones and others reminisce about the difficulty of sneaking the film in under the radar and the producer having to sleep on top of the film cans in his camper van to prevent them from being confiscated. There's also a commentary from Buttgereit and co-writer Franz Rodenkirchen, a couple of short films (Hot Love and Horror Heaven), a new interview with the director who also provides a special introduction to the film, a vintage making of, a Glasgow Q&A and a whole host of other stuff as well. Perhaps the best extra (although this wasn't provided for review) is the third disc, which is a CD of the film's soundtrack. It's quite a bouncy, jolly synthesiser score that's very 1980s while at the same time avoiding the farty burpy monotone that many sleaze efforts of the period seemed to think was de rigeur. There's also an exclusive 100 page book featuring writing on the film and the whole thing is presented in a lovely packaging with five exclusive postcards.
So there you go. I hadn't seen NEKROMANTIK for sixteen years and it will probably be another sixteen before I feel I can steel myself to watch it again. But if you're a NEKROMANTIKophile, or even just casually interested in extreme European cinema, I cannot imagine there's going to be a better or more enthusiastic presentation of this film than this.

Arrow Films have released Jorg Buttgereit's NEKROMANTIK in a special limited 3-disc dual format edition (Blu-ray and DVD) on 15th December 2014 - just in time for Christmas!

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