Apr 18, 2012

NEKRomantik 2

As far as great film sequels go, few can compare to the technical and aesthetic innovation of Jörg Buttgereit’s bizarre anti-love triangle NEKRomantik 2 (1991) aka NEKRomantik 2 - Return of the Loving Dead. While the original Nekromantik (1987) film is a masterpiece in its own right, aberrant Aryan auteur Buttgereit was still ‘a-work-in-progress’ as a filmmaker as far as his craft and peculiar Weltanschauung was concerned when he directed the film.  Had it not been for Buttgereit's sicko campy humor, it is somewhat questionable as to whether or not Nekromantik would have the loyal cult following it has today. After reading various negative reviews of Nekromantik 2, one can only come to the conclusion that most people who loathe the film are repelled by its artistic seriousness, slick direction, and lack of cheap schlock.  In contrast to the original film, Nekromantik 2 is an aesthetically and thematically refined work that has more in common with German New Wave arthouse cinema than what one would typically expect from a horror film about a Nordic beauty sharing vital bodily fluids with a notably decrepit and aesthetically-displeasing cold cadaver. Nekromantik 2 essentially begins where the first film left off, with the corpse of scrawny and swarthy untermensch Rob Schmadtke (anti-hero of Nekromantik). Rob may have had problems with the fairer sex when he was living, but as an inanimate carrion, he is quite the passive lady’s man. During the beginning of Nekromantik 2, Rob's green gelatin-coated corpse is most lovingly exhumed and brought home by necrophiliac-nymphomaniac Monika (played by Monika M). Tall and slender, but blessed with more than ample breasts and a delightful derrière, Miss Monika is the virtual Venus de Milo of corpse-fuckers. Not long after finding the lifeless love of her life, Monika reluctantly begins a seemingly conventional (but barely romantic) one-sided relationship with a less than handsome fellow named Mark (played by Brit Mark Reeder) who has a terribly frail frame and bad teeth but is well meaning and genuine in his desire for reciprocal love.  Although he does not know it, Mark is on the losing side of a battle with a corpse for the women of his dreams.  Throughout Nekromantik 2, it is more than apparent that Monika prefers the increasingly rancid and rotting body of Rob to the chivalrous geek charm of hopeless romantic Mark, thus leading to an inevitable, but totally unpredictable, wet climax that more than rivals that of the original Nekromantik film. 

 Until about a week ago, it had been a couple years since I peered my (soon hypnotized) eyes at Nekromantik 2. Like all of my favorite films, Nekromantik 2 has proven to be a more personal and artistically potent work with each subsequent viewing. While the ultimate anti-romance flick, Nekromantik 2 is also an eclectic aesthetic event that features a beauteous buffet of bawdy blasphemy and classy elegance for the eyes and ears. Of course, such seemingly unbecoming beauty has proven to be too anti-climatic for certain  pedigree of quasi-psychopathic and philistinic gorehounds, but that is undoubtedly part of the film’s distinct charm. Jörg Buttgereit has openly admitted to his conscious intention of utilizing humorless artistic pretension as an act of subversion during the production of Nekromantik 2. After noticing a barrage of horror film critics using Louis Malle’s conversation-based film My Dinner with Andre (1981) as a redundant guideline for discerning cinematic banality, Buttgereit took it upon himself to actually watch the film, which, to his surprise, he actually ended up thoroughly enjoying. In tribute to the film horror fiends love to hate, Buttgereit created a mock remake of My Dinner with Andre (as a film-within-a-film) that the characters Mark and Monika go to see upon first meeting each other in Nekromantik 2. In Buttgereit’s micro-version of Malle’s film, two exceedingly ugly and swarthy krauts – a hyper-intellectual mini-mensch with an unhealthy bird fetish and a mostly mute brobdingnagian Fräulein – dine on a variety of exotic eggs at an apocalyptic setting in a most absurd yet frolicsome manner. Nekromantik 2 also features a variety of segments that will leave most artistically-disinterested viewers hopelessly confounded, such as a salamander falling off a coffin in slow-motion and extended scenes of Mark and Monika romping around a scenic amusement park in a strangely wholesome fashion. Of course, such solacing scenes are in stark contrast to images of Monika dismembering Rob’s corpse and authentic stock footage of baby seals being slaughtered.  In terms of theme, Buttgereit has also described Nekromantik 2 as a pseudo-sequel of sorts to his lurid and bestial pre-Nekromantik romance short Hot Love (1985). Like its predecessors (both Hot Love and Nekromantik), Nekromantik 2 features an inordinately complimentary soundtrack that further accentuates the antithetical poetry that is Teutonic corpse fucking art. Featuring musical compositions from Hermann Kopp, Daktari Lorenz (who played Rob in the original film), John Boy Walton, and Peter Kowalski, the Nekromantik 2 soundtrack is indubitably a work of art in itself. Beyond question, the greatest marriage of sound and image featured in the film is a marvelously macabre dream-sequence of Monika M. singing the French-language song “Scelette Delicieux” as a skull orbits majestically in the background. This celestially phantasmagorical scene also features a pianist whose traditional appearance resembles that of the great classical composers that make up Germany’s unparalleled musical legacy.  This scene is just one of the many imperative parts make up the decadent cinematic body that is Nekromantik 2.

 In tribute to Leilah Wendell, very possibly America’s most infamous female necrophiliac, Nekromantik 2 features a reproduction painting created by the real-life corpse-fucker during a scene of avant-garde corpse-fucking. Although slightly annoyed by Buttgereit’s unofficial use of her art, Wendell apparently loved the film, thus Nekromantik 2 has the grand distinction of coming necrophile-approved. Wendell also agreed to act as a ‘creative consult’ for Nekromantik 3; a still unmade film that has lingered in pre-production for over 20 years. Although Buttgereit and his co-writer Franz Rodenkirchen wrote a script for Nekromantik 3 long ago, the Nekromantik director has continuously acknowledged that he has no intention of making a third film unless he obtains independent funds to do so. In spite of having directed a number of documentaries (Monsterland, Video Nasty), TV series episodes (Lexx, Into the Night With…), and a video stage-play (Captain Berlin Versus Hitler) over the years, it has been nearly twenty years since the Buttgereit directed his last arthouse splatter flick Schramm (1994). Needless to say, it would be an artistic tragedy of sorts if the now middle-aged and married filmmaker failed to complete the Nekromantik trilogy, but I remain quite skeptical about the prospect of its actual production. Even if Buttgereit were to never direct a third Nekromantik film, I am still more than content with both of the previous films for quite different reasons. While Nekromantik offers deranged laughs and the seemingly nefarious novelty of crude corpse-fucking, Nekromantik 2 offers a brutal yet strangely beautiful look at romance in an increasingly decaying, neurotic, and intrinsically ethnomasochistic Occidental world. An academic film critic once offered the dubious and predictably politically-correct theory that the corpse-lust in the Nekromantik films acts as a subconscious metaphor for the generational burden modern Germans hold due to their ancestor’s legacy of murder during the Second World War. Personally, I see the corpse-fucking as symbolic of Germany’s (and the rest of Europe’s) inherited fatalistic self-loathing and population decline as a result of the all-encompassing devastation brought about during two very fratricidal World Wars. This suicidal and inorganic post-WW2 phenomenon of ancestor-hatred can be clearly seen in Buttgereit's documentary short Mein Papa (1982); a sadistically cynical (yet admittedly humorous) Daddy-denigrating home-video document of the German filmmaker's father's progressive degeneration leading up to his pathetic death.  In regard to German Conservative Revolutionary Ernst von Salomon's post-WW2 book Der Fragebogen (1951), celebrated (yet once discredited for 'authenticating' forged Hitler diaries) British historian H. R. Trevor-Roper snidely described the German mind as a, "dark, sinister, skeleton-laden cupboard."  Despite the blatant seething hatred embedded within Trevor-Roper's venemous remark, there is much truth in his statement, at least in regard to German art, as expressed quite vividly in everything the Grimms' Fairy Tales to the mystical artistic works of symbolist painter Franz von Stuck to the films of Jörg Buttgereit.   In spite of appearances and opinions to the contrary, the films of Jörg Buttgereit follow in a rich and ancient tradition of Germanic art, although being of the exceedingly and profoundly decadent pre-apocalyptic post-nationalist sort. I don't see it as an exaggeration to state that Nekromantik 2 is an expression of an artist at the height of their artistic prowess and precision.

-Ty E

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