Come on in, the water's delicious...
Hello again from Film Gutter, and having spent a while swimming the straits of The Human Centipede, we're back to our regular service and dredging deeper than ever looking for the most disturbing cinema out there. And where better to resume that with one of the masters of the form, Marian Dora? A long time ago we looked at the truly horrible Debris Documentar, and today we come to the very pointedly-titled Cannibal.
Now, to be fair, when you say 'based on a true story' my interest in a film well and truly tails off. But when the story in question is that of Armin Miewes, a German man who advertised to find a voluntary human sacrifice for his cannibalistic desires – and found a willing party – then you might just pique my interest. It's an infamous case that has been referenced many times, including in one of my favourite Rammstein tracks Mein Teil. But I digress...
So from the very beginning its fairly obvious what we will be getting into, right? Well, yes and no. Yes, there is enough gore here to satisfy probably even the more hardened of bloodhounds out there. What you might not have anticipated was an artful romance – typical of Dora's style, there's more at work here than just pure shock value. There is a film-maker at work here, and I'd argue a good one – albeit one who has made his reputation in making some of the most controversial movies of all time.
The lead characters are never named, but our cannibal is played by the perennially disturbing Carsten Frank, an actor willing to lose himself in some of the most terrible characters imaginable. There's a bit of scene setting – getting to know our Armin Miewes character a little – before he meets 'The Flesh', ably played by Victor Brandl. It's from here that we embark into what is a strangely sensual and loving relationship before the act of ritualistic slaughter that is to come, which serves as a kind of culmination of that twisted bond between the two.
You may have already gathered from the review so far – there's not an awful lot going on plot-wise here. There's no attempt at escape, no attempt at rescue, no-one trying to stop what our two characters are doing. It's simply a representation of what may have happened in real life, a detailed and uneasy display of killing, dismemberment and (of course) cannibalism. That's not to say by any stretch it's a bad film – there's no other way to tell the story without ridiculous embellishments or abuses of the facts. But this is not a film for the faint of heart – there's nothing left to the imagination in terms of tearing and slicing apart the flesh and muscle to produce the meat our cannibal so desperately wants.
It's beautiful in its own strange way – perhaps haunting is a better word. And while it might lack some of the crunching impact of other Dora offerings such as Debris or Melancholie Der Engel, it's a very interesting piece in its own right.
RATING: 7/10. Hard to go overboard on this one, because the plot is so slim for a film of its length and the real events are not open to much interpretation or elaborating. But with that said it is beautifully shot – like much of Dora's output – and it certainly isn't the unpleasant exploitation piece that it might have been. If you're particularly averse to blood and butchery, this might be one to give a miss, and even if you don't mind a bit of the red stuff it will probably have you wincing in places. It's not one to necessarily live long in the memory, but it's worth a look for fans of Dora's and perhaps even Buttgereit's work – another very worthy entry into the pantheon of German extreme cinema.