Ginger Nuts of Horror
FILM GUTTER - DEBRIS DOCUMENTAR (2012)
Dir. Marian Dora, Germany
Welcome to Film Gutter, a spot where we'll be diving head-first into the dark, dank cesspools of cinema. I'll be exploring some of the most disturbing and most notorious films from world and independent cinema in these reviews, and where better to start than with the latest piece from a master of shocking cinema? Marian Dora is renowned for what is generally regarded as one of the most infamous films of all time, Melancholie Der Engel, which we'll be coming back to in a future piece. He's also known for 2006's Cannibal, exploring the case of German cannibal Armin Miewes who advertised online to find a willing party that he could eat. And let's not forget he did find somebody...
The link between all of these three films is our lead actor, Carsten Frank. In this film Frank plays a (hopefully) fictionalised version of himself, who by day is a cameraman on a film set, performing relatively mundane tasks and having snippets of conversation with others working on the film. That's only half the story, of course – perhaps less than half the story. Because, off-set Frank is one of the most twisted perverts that you could possibly hope to meet, and it's these vignettes that happen between the behind-the-scenes, documentary style footage that truly give the film its sickening impact.
The film sets out a sort of manifesto in its very opening minutes, with our lead out for a run when he stumbles across the carcass of a dead bird. Struck with this discovery, he heads home to grab his camera and ditch his clothes, so that he is able to get a close-up of the body whilst naked. We see a lot of nudity from Frank in this film, much of which is pretty unpleasant to see.
This is the just the beginning for our intrepid lead, who throughout the film takes a nihilistic journey through all kinds of debauchery. Without the English subtitles to assist (Dora's films are known for their lack of subtitles) I can only surmise that our lead is supposedly ill or dying, as we see him many times coughing violently, and this film is perhaps ann odyssey of filth as he seeks to explore every possible avenue of pleasure before his time comes.
Cue some unsettling snippets as we wear into this film – there's regular nose-picking, the removal of toenails and the eating of the crust between Frank's toes and there's some truly unflinching depictions of masturbation too. Our lead's life is truly split into two – on one side a respectable worker in the film industry, on the other a sub-human monster who cares nothing about the moral limits of society.
I'd be hard pressed to truly recommend Debris Documentar – it's honestly more the kind of film you would watch on a dare, or to see if you really have the fortitude for it. There are three scenes that particularly linger in the memory, and none of them in a good way – one a close-up shot of our lead defecating, the other a very real-looking self-harm scene where Frank cuts into his leg and the third an enema scene that will absolutely haunt me forever. And again, the worst of it is that it all looks real, so real it might just have been shot as you see it, without a trick or special effect in sight.
I've watched most of Dora's output, and his previous movies, even those which have unrelentingly explored very unpleasant territory, have genuinely felt like pieces of art. The filming is often beautiful, and the movies all have motifs and images that resonate along the way. The music is often very striking, and while the acting may not be the best, the performances are believable if nothing else. While Debris Documentar has its artistic moments, one of the key differences to other Dora films is that here we are straight into deeply disturbing territory, with no preamble. Debris also looks and feels substantially more squalid than its predecessors, truly taking joy in rolling around in the muck of humanity. Movies like Melancholie and Cannibal went to pains to set a tone, establish something of characters, explore the issues that preceded the events that followed. Debris revels in its own disgusting nature from the very get-go.
This is a film I truly will never forget, and not necessarily in a way I like. However it was unquestionably compelling viewing, and I found myself unable to switch off or look away from the 75 minutes of Derbis Documentar, even without the English subtitles to get a complete understanding of what was going on. As previously, Carsten Frank is an actor that I really like, and only he could have pulled off this truly revolting lead role with so much conviction – for me, he's a big part of what makes Dora's films work. If you really do want to see one of the most horrible films you're ever likely to see, then check this one out. If Dora's other work has been too much for you, then this is definitely going to be a hard one to stomach, especially as it all but ditches any artistic pretence. I'll give it a 7.5/10.