Nekromantik is an interesting film to experience, because there’s no doubt that what one is set to experience will either be off-putting to the human eye or fascinating. For the longest while I’ve wanted to see it because I’ve always been drawn forth by transgressive art and Jörg Buttgereit’s work seemed to be a perfect showcase for boundary-pushing content, almost like John Waters. To say that I got what I expected out of Nekromantik is only the very least of what made this experience worthwhile, but how does it all add up? If I’m being perfectly honest, I can see why others wouldn’t find the material especially appealing but at the same time I think it’s worth watching at least once. Yet that having been said, I also struggle even trying to call it “great.” The ideas are enough to sell me in, but something about its own delivery still feels lacking.
If Nekromantik had really carried so much semblance of an actual story, we have a street cleaner named Rob who brings a corpse back home with him after he loses his job, soon bringing forth only something more bizarre up ahead with his wife, Betty. The two begin in sexual pleasures with the corpse. There’s really not much more that I can say about the film’s premise, but I still think that there at least seems to be something interesting presented because of the fact that writer-director Jörg Buttgereit is presenting this only as a template for what would grow to become transgressive art – which is already something that has my curiosity growing. But even in John Waters films you can find a purpose within the disgusting material because his work has carried a distinct appeal, and Nekromantik doesn’t seem to have so much of the same charm.
The film opens with a warning about the content being disgusting and a quote from V. L. Compton. It seems fitting enough that the film sets a viewer off with a note that if they want to keep watching, they can do so but if not – then this film is set to do nothing. It isn’t too long before we get the first image of a woman urinating, but eventually we get images of genuine animal cruelty. It’s Buttgereit’s intent to shock his viewers, because he wasn’t planning on becoming a filmmaker but rather instead just make something that could go beyond the German film rating system and eventually shock as many people as possible. As I’ve stated prior the appeal of this idea will determine whether or not the film will do anything for you but I didn’t find the content shocking because it was only out there for the film’s own sake. Something like Pier Paolo Pasolini’s controversial Saló, or the 120 Days of Sodom remains shocking because of how it works as a political statement against fascism, but Nekromantik just repeats the grotesque imagery to the point it can become boring.
Perhaps as a bizarre romantic comedy there’s potential because of where the film goes with its premise, a corpse is being preferred by a woman to her own living husband. It’s an idea that moves by without morals again inside of a John Waters-esque manner, but whether or not such films have appealed to you will determine how well you can stomach what you’d see. But it’s interesting I feel on the count that we have a female character who’s drawn forth by what she wants rather than just being a scream queen who’ll arguably end up becoming the last person surviving by the time the film’s over – typical of the horror genre. It almost seems subversive in this sense, perhaps the film’s transgressive nature did pay off to Jörg Buttgereit’s end to some extent.
For the film’s slight running time, I’m not even sure whether I wanted more or not. I’m not sure because the film didn’t seem to have much reason for itself to play out to become as gross as it is. At only 75 minutes, perhaps it will be easy enough for oneself to say that if the content didn’t appeal to you, yet you decided to stick around, it was slight at the very least. But if you were looking for something more to be found within the grotesque imagery and just overall bizarre concept, then the running time would only end up serving as a detriment. Personally I feel like the film could have benefited more had it centered more around the couple and the bizarre love triangle that they have entangled themselves within rather than just throw as much disgusting imagery as possible, because it seems like it moves back and forth and adds up to nothing.
If your curiosity is truly driving you forward, then Nekromantik will definitely be worth a watch. Otherwise, then you’d most likely want to stay away. I still think that Nekromantik would at least be an interesting one to watch on the count that its content and intent to challenge censorship still carries its own appeal to me, but at the same time it did have the feeling of just being present for the film’s own sake. At the very least, Jörg Buttgereit refuses to hold back but it’s up to you to decide whether that is worthy of praise or not. I feel mixed because there was still something more presented but next to Pink Flamingos and the like, this one can make such films look like Disney films. Take that at your own precaution.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Leisure Time Features.
Directed by Jörg Buttgereit
Screenplay by Jörg Buttgereit, Franz Rodenkirchen
Produced by Manfred Jelinski
Starring Daktari Lorenz, Beatrice Manowski, Harald Lundt
Release Year: 1987
Running Time: 75 minutes