West Germany. 1987.
Director – Jörg Buttgereit, Screenplay – Jörg Buttgereit & Franz Rodenkirchen, Producer – Manfred Jelinski, Photography – Uwe Bohrer, Music – Herman Kopp, Daktari Lorenz & John Boy Walton, Special Effects – Jorg Buttgereit, Daktari Lorenz & Franz Rodenkirchen, Corpse Effects – Jorg Buttgereit & Franz Rodenkirchen. Production Company – Buttgereit-Jelinski.
Daktari Lorenz (Robert Schmadtke), Beatrice M. (Betty)
Robert Schmadtke works as an attendant for a cleaning service that removes bodies and human remains after accidents. He secretly steals body parts and then an entire rotted corpse and brings them home to his girlfriend Betty where the two of them engage in necrophiliac sex. After Robert is fired from the job, Betty leaves him, taking the corpse. Unhappily, Robert tries to compensate by slaughtering cats and prostitutes.
Watching NEKRomantik is akin to watching a Salo or 120 Days of Sodom (1975), a Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) or a Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) for the first time. There is an absolute rawness to it that you know is the real thing – that it is a film that has set out to defy all convention and shock deep inside social sensibilities. (It is no particular surprise that NEKROmantik has been banned in just about every country in the world). It is a rawness that transmits itself despite the impoverished surroundings of the production – the grainy 8mm film stock, the bad acting and the bad editing.
Director Jörg Buttgereit sets out to break you down with full-frontal shock value – there is a shockingly hard-to-watch (real) scene early on where we see a rabbit having its throat slit and it then being skinned and gutted. (A scene with a cat being killed later in the film lacks the same shock impact because the cat is obviously just a prop hidden in a bag, not the real thing). This is merely warm-up for the way-out scene in which Daktari Lorenz and Beatrice M engage in a threesome with a corpse, wherein a piece of dowling with a condom on is inserted in the body’s crotch so she can ride it and they are seen kissing its rotting lips, smearing the putrescent goo over themselves and rolling its eyeballs in their mouths.
There is an amateurishly directed scene with a gunfreak accidentally shooting his neighbour that looks like it was filmed while Jorg Buttgereit was still perfecting his style, otherwise NEKRomantik remains a gruellingly intensive view. Moreover, for a film that Buttgereit claims was made without a script – and the dialogue is almost minimalistic – the story holds up surprisingly well. The film ‘climaxes’ with a scene where Daktari Lorenz stabs himself and his engorged penis spurts semen and then blood everywhere, something that expresses the film’s perverse mingling of sex and death with remarkable potency despite an incredibly obvious penis prop.
NEKRomantik was followed by a sequel NEKRomantik 2 (1991). Jörg Buttgereit has made a number of other equally gruelling films, including Der Todesking (The Death King) (1989), an anthology of short pieces about death and suicide; Schramm (1993) about a serial killer; Captain Berlin vs Hitler (2009); and the Final Girl episode of the horror anthology German Angst (2015), as well as Monsterland (2009), a documentary about genre cinema.