Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Nekromantik by Buttgereit

I've been interested in the film Nekromantik by Jörg Buttgereit since I saw that David Kerekes of Film Threat wrote a book about Buttgereit's work. Fortunately, I live in the same town as Scarecrow Video, which is nationally known for it's foreign film selection and has even published a book about films.

So Nekromantik. First off, the buzz about it, that it's about necrophilia, is kind of off. Not totally by any means, but partially off. The story charts the life of a guy who's a necrophiliac, first with a live in girlfriend who's also one and then, then on his own. He keeps body parts in plastic jars and takes a corpse home from his job ("Joe's Street Cleaning Agency"), to make love with it and his girlfriend.

But the film really heats up after his girlfriend leaves him and takes the mummified corpse with her.

Drawing on psychology, Freud outlines two theories about a fascination with death. The first locates it in relation to sex, seeing a fascination with death as being an outward projection of a sadistic impulse. This is sexual because in a way sex itself isn't all nice and pretty but also somewhat dark and aggressive. So the thrill that people get when they see slasher films with breasts interchanged with violence could be seen as a result of the aggressive sexual instinct being satisfied first directly through exposure to sex and secondarily through exposure to fantastic violence which embodies the dark aspects of the sex drive.

The second theory is more important in relation to Nekromantik. Freud also states that a fascination with death could be caused by a dissatisfaction with the here and now and a wish to go back to an inanimate state. After all, dead people don't have to worry about things. A fascination with dead things could be a fascination with things that are under control, and sexual feelings could develop in relation to that liking that which was once living but now has its problems resolved.

This is what Nekromantik is about. It isn't a cheesy horror film talking about necrophilia for cheap thrills; instead it's about two, then one, very alienated persons who are more comfortable relating to the dead than to the living. This can be seen in the sequence where the man brings home a cat and then kills it, and then keeps the body as a companion. He can't relate to it when it's alive, as something that has needs and independent will, but he can relate to it as an inanimate object. He also tries to commit suicide through taking sleeping pills and hallucinates that he himself is dead and half decayed, and that he's in a world of freedom, literally jumping around in green fields with soft rolling hills in the sunshine, with an understanding companion.

He can't achieve orgasm with someone living, it has to be with someone dead. The living can criticize and he projects onto the dead a kind of understanding. Ultimately, he kills himself by disembowelment with a large knife and achieves complete and total orgasm through the act.

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