I watched Nekromantik expecting, essentially, trash. Often, a film with this much notoriety surrounding its tackling of a single taboo is only valuable in as much as it had the nerve to tackle such a thing.
So I was extremely surprised when I found this worthy of merit beyond its mere transgression and not really that gross.
The technical issues present here (presumably because of severe budget constraint) hold it back from greatness, sure. It’s rarely (but not never) shot well, the acting is uniformly terrible, there’s basically no plot to speak of, and everything looks cheap.
However, there is a vague political edge to this that makes it feel subversive beyond mere shock value. Jorg Buttgereit makes subtle swipes at bourgeoise morality as we watch the working class forced to toil for nothing to the point where they seem to internalise the condescension until they find pleasure in the very concept of decay. So, yes, this is a movie about a couple who fuck a gooey corpse, but it’s not pure exploitation.
The second thing that Nekromantik has going for it is that it’s hilarious. I think a ton of this humour comes down to the weird tenderness coursing through it, which makes it harder to be entirely shocked by the disgusting acts. There is a gentleness here, which is already kind of funny when applied to the bitter statement it’s making, but all of that is compounded by the use of incongruously beautiful piano music during the acts. Listening to its simple but powerful chords while watching a man lick a bulging eyeball had me cracking up. But that was nothing compared to the last scene, which was the only part of the film that actually shocked me and also the funniest. As I watched the horrific (yet strangely poetic) climax – heh – to this odd beast, the piano theme came back and I couldn’t stop laughing.
Buttgereit has said this is a comedy, and I think I believe him, even as I find myself almost moved by the picture.