Feb 29, 2008

Der Todesking

Jörg Buttgereit’s Der Todesking is the German director’s most ambitious film. It has no plot or central characters. Der Todesking is a compilation of suicide scenarios taking place during seven different days of the week. Buttgereit was especially thoughtful when creating this masterwork of macabre. He brings real horror to the screen.

I look at Der Todesking as the repressed psyche of a post World War II German. The first thing the average American thinks when they hear the words “German” or “Germany” is Nazi. American public schools and hateful media sources scream anti-German propaganda endlessly. They preach of “tolerance” yet single out groups as “evil” and “unprogressive.” These propaganda institutions look at different people as collectives. They promote “individualism” yet practice collectivist thought.

German victims of Bolshevism

Der Todesking
can be looked at as all the built up guilt and blame placed on Germans generations after World War II atrocities took place. No one ever speaks of the 2 million ethnic Germans murdered throughout Eastern Europe by Stalin and his Bolshevik thugs, America and England’s (England was the first to start this, not Germany) terror bombing of German cities with intent of killing women and children (Dresden for example), Dwight D. Eisenhower’s killing of up to 1.7 million German POWS in Death Camps, and countless other atrocities. Contemporary academia and historians can only see in black and white. No one was able to stop Jörg Buttgereit from making a joke about these historical perversions.

On the Tuesday segment of Der Todesking a German rents a Nazi exploitation VHS tape obviously modeled after Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS. The video features a SS women (women weren’t even allowed to become “official” SS) cutting off the penis of a man (played by Buttgereit). This scene makes a mockery of the childish obsession with fairy tales surrounding concentration camp events. Tales of human soap, skin lamps, and other ridiculous propaganda have been long discredited. Steven Spielberg would put a price on Buttgereit’s head if he saw Der Todesking.

The Tuesday segment is the only slightly comedic part of Der Todesking. The other segments focus on real pain and suffering. The Thursday segment shows various shots on a German motorway bridge. Throughout this segment various names are superimposed of people who committed suicide by jumping off this bridge. All people listed were from actual suicides.

The most disturbing suicide comes on the final segment Sunday. A young man laying on a mattress is losing his mind. He is crying and screaming while repeatedly banging his head against a wall (quite pathetically). The man looks like he could have been found in a concentration camp. This scene is both the most brutal and effective. Buttgereit utilizes some of his signature camera techniques creating a distorted perspective forcing the spectator to become part of the deranged fun.

Throughout Der Todesking a body decomposes as the film progresses from day to day. The body starts naked and fresh. Effective stop motion animation shows the body being eaten by maggots and eventually turning to a mess of bones. Jörg Buttgereit’s films have always had believable dead bodies and artistic special effects. I get annoyed when I hear people obsessing over cokeheads like Tom Savini. His special effects could have been created by anyone. They lack any sort of artistry. His remake of Night of the Living Dead was a mockery of the original and a confirmation to his lack of creative capabilities. Gregory Nicotero is a much better mainstream horror special effects man.

Jörg Buttgereit is not a director that is accessible to the average horror fan. I can assume that most Rob Zombie fans would become hopelessly bored by Buttgereit’s small film lexicon. Zombie is a director focused on being reflexive of horror film history. He is a postmodernist and lacks any type of originality. Buttgereit is an auteur director that has established his own one man film movement. Buttgereit’s films invoke emotions and beauty that are wasted on those that prefer cheap thrills (which I enjoy in their own right). All aspiring filmmakers should forget George A. Romero and study Jörg Buttgereit. The horror genre needs more artists and less artisans.

-Ty E

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