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DVD: Grimm Love / Rohtenburg (2006)
 
       
Review Rating:   Standard  
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G
   
Label/Studio:
Eagle (Australia)
 
Catalog #:
 
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A
Region:
4 (PAL)
Released:

May 31, 2007

 

 

 
Genre: Horror / Crime  
Synopsis:
A man agrees to let himself be eaten and killed by another man (though not in that chronological order).  

 

 

Directed by:

Martin Weisz

Screenplay by:

T.S. Faull

Music by: Steven Gutheinz
Produced by: Vanessa Coifman, Andreas Scmid, Marco Weber
Cast:

Keri Russell, Thomas Kretschmann, Thomas Huber, Rainier Meissner, Angelika Bartsch, Alexander Martschewski, Nils Dommning, Markus Lucas, and Pascal Andres.

Film Length: 90 mins
Process/Ratio: 2.35:1
Colour
Anamorphic DVD: Yes
Languages:  English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1
Subtitles:_
 
Special Features :  

(none)

 
 
Comments :

Based on the infamous German case in which computer programmer Bernd-Jurgen Brandes agreed to participate in a cannibalistic fantasy with Armin Meiwes, a rural oddball with more modest computer interests, Rohtenburg was ultimately banned in Germany due to a lawsuit in which Meiwes successfully argued that the film slandered his deeds and made him look bad a bit of judicial absurdity, considering Brandes agreed to have his member removed by Meiwes so they could eat it together, before Meiwes would wait until Brandes expired, cut up the cadaver into edible portions, and ultimately eat 20 kilos of the other-other white meat.

Such a crime case is far too irresistible not to dramatize on film, and while Rohtenburg briefly known as Butterfly (a term fictional character Oliver Hartwin applies to Simon Grombeck) before being released outside of Germany as Grimm Love did eventually pop up on DVD in parts of Europe and Australia, and will finally get its U.S. theatrical release sometime in 2007, while Marian Dora's far nastier Cannibal (2005) is already widely available on DVD.

It might be a simple case where a more arty, extreme, or outright exploitive B-picture was less of an issue, and Grimm was a high-profile production with name actors and a looming German premiere date that gave Meiwes and his lawyer time to stop the film from being screened.

What's perhaps ironic is how the film doesn't really treat either participant as totally insane or evil; from the filmmakers' POV, the whole mess was a case of two lonely men from broken-up families whose inner pain was married to levels of extreme self-abuse; after their in-person encounter that fateful night, each sensed a strange bond, or kinship, or mutual admiration that made their grand plan a natural union of sorts.

In the end, Oliver's fantasy of eating human flesh is ultimately realized, while Simon's desire to have his member chomped off as proper punishment for the seething guilt from his mother's suicide brings the sad masochist some peace (even though a bullet to the head or a swan dive off an aquaduct would've been a lot quicker).

Even the men's homosexuality isn't treated as sleazy, nor as a factor contributing to their extreme fantasies of cannibalism, and the performances by Thomas Huber as Simon, and particularly Thomas Kretschmann as Oliver, and very strong; the latter delivers the right amount subtext to show Oliver reaching new levels of excitement as he moves from pure fantasy to reality, while the former conveys a wounded psyche haunted by unfathomable guilt and sorrow, particularly since he knows his desire to die has superceded a loving relationship with stable partner Felix.

T.S. Faull's screenplay uses an American criminology student (Keri Russell) to present the case, and director Martin Weisz (The Hills Have Eyes 2) deftly fiddles with different time periods to craft a narrative that has Russell recount case facts, visit locations, and ultimately watch the video footage of the member-slicing and Simon's dismemberment, and intercut the events and the character's own recollections and memory flashes. Weisz appropriately avoids flashy visuals and kinetic editing, and he dials down the dialogue levels in addition to having the actors underplay their roles, and uses Steven Gutheinz' discreet music and occasional sound effects to hammer a few effective shocks.

The problem with Grimm in that Russell's character just isn't necessary; it's a ploy that may have been devised to create portentous images and sounds, and craft mood montages since nothing happens until the big chomp, but the student character is bland, novice, and takes us away from the intriguingly tormented men, and forces us to watch dry scenes of Russell wandering, looking, thinking, and reacting in horror as if the filmmakers didn't trust the instincts of their audience.

Weisz even has Russell undergo a slow makeup change, initially wearing thick black lines around her eyes, drains colour from her scenes, and depicts her increasing obsession with the case by using her laptop screen and TV set to cast pale light on her gaunt, tired visage. (Her rapid ability to acquire a copy of the video footage is also ridiculous, given her position as a criminology major would stop her from using her own personal address to acquire such contraband.)

In choosing to stay away from heavy gore (still a good decision), the film is more of a mood meditation, and it works on that level because the case facts heard in Russell's intro narration make us dread the finale, particularly when we sense moments throughout the film as the men are slowly going off the deep end.

Gore fans will be disappointed, and crime fans will find a lot of changes were made to fictionalize and distance the film from the actual case. A 2004 episode of BodyShock: The Man Who Ate His Lover covers all the factual and psychological aspects of Weisz and Brandes, and having seen that drama, it's clear a much deeper drama could've been constructed by newcomer Faull, whose decision to use a human marker for our benefit robbed him (and us) of the chance to go deeper into the characters, and their stark dual lives each led one so meticulously.

 

© 2007 Mark R. Hasan

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