When your film opens with a quote from happy-go-lucky scamp Ted Bundy, there’s a chance that belly laughs aren’t to follow. It would be odd to expect them too, considering that Nekromantik 2, recently released by Arrow Video, was seized by the authorities upon its 1991 release in its native Germany. Ironically, the official reason given for this was that it “glorified violence” which, of all the accusations you could level at the film, is probably the least believable.
Indeed, it’s missing the point entirely, as Nekromantik 2 isn’t about making war, it’s about making love.
To a corpse.
The film picks up where director Jorg Buttgereit’s infamous original ends, with Monika (Monika M.) digging up the somewhat fresh remains of original protagonist and all-round good time guy Rob. Taking her putrid hunk home, Monika attempts to indulge in a romantic relationship with the cadaver, but finds her spirit and loyalty tested by the arrival of actually-alive Mark (Mark Reeder) who unknowingly puts Monika in a dizzying love triangle between boy and body.
Set in a recently reunified Berlin, played completely straight, and shot with lo-fi sensibilities, Nekromantik 2 is an exceptionally grim film stylistically. It presents a world so lonely, paranoid, cold and grey that it attempts, and somewhat succeeds, in displaying a bizarre innocence about Monika’s unappealing romantic pursuits. Crucially, the film doesn’t (for the most part) vilify Monika as a bad person, just a person who has her own dreams and desires, as disgusting as they may (or may not) appear to the viewer.
Mark represents a societally deemed “normal” relationship, and the two actors have wonderful chemistry together. Their sweet and innocent dates juxtapose the scenes of appalling, and stomach-churning, horror that take place within the walls of Monika’s dingy apartment.
As the film progresses however, it starts to lose its way a little. The final third is awkwardly handled and tiring. Buttergeit really drops the ball with a seemingly endless scene where characters watch documentary video of a genuine seal dissection. This moment may not only be a step too far for even the most hardened viewers, but its biggest crime is to be a pure tabloid-esque shock, as opposed to the carefully justified gore that has been present in the movie thus far. It’s the absolute low point of the film, from an exploitative standpoint and a narrative one.
Fortunately, Monika and Mark are an interesting pair, and though the film could easily be shorn of fifteen minutes on the journey to its great finale, they make for compelling viewing, using strong facial acting to tell their story, backed by a suitably erratic electronic score. The film is layered throughout with symbolism and subtext about societal politics and the very nature of love, loneliness, acceptance and regret, it just chooses to explore these themes through an incredibly dark medium.
Once again, Arrow Video have outdone themselves with an incredible Blu-ray release. The 3 disc set comes with a ridiculous wealth of extras include a Buttgereit commentary, multiple featurettes, cast/crew interviews, trailers and many more fascinating features far too numerous to list. Also included is a CD of the previously unreleased soundtrack. This is all presented in a stylish box that is fit to be buried (and then disinterred) in. Most films could only dream of the labour of love Arrow have put into this release.
It’s absolutely one of the best Blu-ray packages of the year.
Ultimately, your decision to watch Nekromantik 2 comes down to your ability to stomach it. It’s far from perfect, definitely overstays its welcome, and features some horrible moments of cheap exploitation. But behind its flaws is a well performed, unapologetic and very personal film about the genuine struggle of existing, both within yourself and among others, in a relatively cold, and often hateful world. This message may occasionally get lost amongst the rotten corpse-fucking, hacksaw-wielding, Grand Guignol violence, but is still a theme worth exploring, however it’s approached.
Film: 3 / 5
Package: 5 / 5
Dir: Jorg Buttgereit
Scr: Jorg Buttgereit, Franz Rodenkirchen
Starring: Monika M, Mark Reeder
Effects: Sammy Balkas, Eva Lorenz
Music: Hermann Kop, Monika M, John Boy Walton
Run time: 104 mins
Nekromantik 2 is available now on Bluray/DVD from Arrow Video.