Nekromantik is a 1987 German exploitation film directed by the notorious Jörg Buttgereit. The film has gained quite the reputation, being controversial for obvious reasons. With a 5.2 stars out of ten stars on IMDb, and a disappointingly low 50% on the tomatometer, it’s clear that not everyone is nearly as crazy about this film as I am. The general consensus seems to be that Nekromantik has no redeeming qualities, and is a disgusting, meaningless, ugly, and depraved film made only to shock. And while Jörg himself has admitted the film was made purely to shock, and to rail against the German film rating system, Nekromantik has so much more to it. It’s an artistic black comedy, and, while not nearly as much so as the second film, it’s beautiful.
The film opens to (after a wonderful warning) a woman pissing on a dead pigeon, which is nothing you’d notice unless you listen to the commentary track on the Arrow Video release of the film, because it’s too damn dark. Even so, if a film opens to a woman pissing, you know you’re in for some transgressive shit. After she finishes her business, she gets back into the car with her husband, and after some struggling with a map, the two get into a horrible car wreck, leaving the woman with only half of her body, and the man with one less eye. Needless to say, they both die.
We then meet our charming protagonist, Robert Schmadtke (Daktari Lorenz), who works as a street sweeper, cleaning up human remains after car wrecks. We see Robert pocket the man’s eyeball during cleanup. For what? To bring home to his wife of course! See? I told you he was charming.
As you can imagine, Robert’s wife, Betty (Beatrice Manowski), is delighted to add the eye to their collection of human remains. This sets up the film pretty well, and after some disturbing scenes including Betty bathing in bloody bathwater while donning sunglasses, a very real rabbit being skinned, and an autopsy, we know what we’re in for. I feel I have to address the rabbit scene. Violence against animals is always a bummer in any film, and it’s never something I can get behind. The reasoning in Nekromantik’s case is that these are implied memories of Robert’s father killing a childhood pet. Still, I will not overlook it, and I do not find it necessary in any way. It’s safe to say if you couldn’t handle the scenes of animal violence in Cannibal Holocaust, this one isn’t for you.
Eventually, Robert manages to bring an entire rotted corpse home for his wife, and as you’d imagine, she’s ecstatic. Almost immediately, they cut a steel pipe and put a condom over it, and have the most artsy necrophiliac threesome you’ll ever see, accompanied by the beautiful “Ménage À Trois” by John Boy Walton, which is undoubtedly great, and my favorite song from any film ever. If you haven’t heard it yet, you can listen to it here for free, thanks to One Way Static Records’ Soundcloud.
Robert ends up being fired from his job, and after a scene of Betty enjoying the corpse on her own, we get to see Robert inform Betty of his termination. Betty leaves the poor bastard, taking her new love with her. The rest of the film is Robert’s descent into a deep depression, which includes him killing his cat in a violent outburst (don’t worry, the cat isn’t real) and bathing in water tainted with cat’s blood and entrails.
After a pretty shitty experience at the cinema and a wild dream, we get one of the best suicide scenes of all time. I really don’t want to spoil this, because it’s such a treat. I’ll just say there’s lots of semen, and even more blood. And with that, Robert is no more. It’s no surprise that this film caused quite the controversy. Screenings of the film were even stormed by authorities, and prints of the film were seized. Word spread quickly about the film thanks to fanzines, and the film holds a cult status to this day. For more information on the censorship issues, there’s a great documentary on the Arrow Video release of the film titled Morbid Fascination: The Nekromantik Legacy.
So why do I love this film so much? Why do I find this necrophilia love story beautiful? I think it’s the atmosphere and aesthetics, something about films shot on super 8 is intriguing to me, and I love the look and feel. Nekromantik makes us feel for the characters, and while necrophilia may be taboo, I never found myself being upset by their fetish, it’s just presented to us as a love triangle, but part of the triangle happens to be a corpse. That might be one of the biggest reasons this film upsets people so much; nobody wants to root for a necrophile, but Nekromantik doesn’t give us a choice. Nekromantik is currently streaming on Shudder, and is available on Blu-ray and DVD through both Cult Epics and Arrow Video.
I give Nekromantik an 8/10
If you’re horny for more, check out the sequel!
Watch a trailer for Nekromantik here.