"Life is harder than censorship allows"

Much of the fame for, or notoriety of, Nekromantik has come down on the head of director Jorg Buttgereit, but I'm sure he'd be the first to agree that it's just as much a team effort. A leading player on that team must be producer Manfred Jelinski - his efforts are not limited to financing the picture, he also is responsible for some of the visual effects, works on the subtitling tirelessly promotes all of Jorg's films around the globe. The two of them work together like any good double act, but when they were over in Britain recently promoting Nekromantik 2, I managed to corner Manfred for a chat, though his partner still managed to get the odd word in...

How did you come to work with Jorg?
MJ: I went to some screenings to see what people in the underground were doing and did some video transfers for him. The first film was Bloody Excess in the Fuhrer Bunker and I found what he is doing very newand refreshing. So we did a documentary together about the punk movement, and then Jorg did Hot Love. After that I was pretty sure that this was a man with which I wanted to work!

Were people's expectations a problem with Nekromantik 2?
MJ: The public did have some expectations of the film, but that's their problem! I found it very satisfying to give the story dimensions that I felt were missing in the first one.
JB: I'm the only one doing films about necrophilia and death?related things, and as no?one else is doing it, i have to do a second one. The corpse fucking is not the important thing for me in Nekromantik 2, the important thing for me was to make the audience care about the actress. it's really important for them to be on the side of the girl, despite what's she doing, and I think it works. The funny thing is that most of the women who've seen the film are really pleased with it. If you watch carefully, it's a kind of feminist movie. Some people may have a problem; they normally understand the things the guy is doing but in the sequel he's a little bit stupid.

Can you tell me what the censorship situation in Germany is like just now? [There had been something of a crackdown recently, culminating in a print of Nekromantik 2 being seized, literally from the projector]
MJ: There are District Attorneys in towns in Germany - I guess they're collecting films like this. They say to the public "We are fighting for a clean screen" but I fear they are collecting them. They know too much about these films, so I'm conviced that they are fans! I do not fear any interest in me, the only thing they can do is destroy some things in my private comic collection. What have I done? I've made some movies, and I stand by them. I think they have a good morality and I can defend them. After the confiscation in Munich, I made a sheet of clippings cut out from newspapers and put them together with a heading that can be translated as "Life is harder than censorship allows", and that's the truth. What we do in the film is to tell the truth through a picture of life.

Are you completely opposed to all censorship or do you feel that some censorship is necessary?
MJ: I would draw my own line like the chairwoman of the censorship authority in Germany. She sees all the violence that is done to adults but what she is after is sex with children - there are some things you just can not allow. If it is special fx, I don't see any reason to take it off the market - it's better that people see it on tv rather than doing it themselves. I'm not convinced that watching something on TV will affect people afterwards in reality. I studied psychology and it doesn't say that such a cause and effect happens. The more I think, the more I'm convinced that if you are prevented from seeing something, the more likely you are to do it. It's a release, like the Greeks had with their theatre.
JB: If there's a need to show something, I'll show it. I don't have this approach of just showing things to offend people. It might sound stupid, but we care about what's going on in the story, but to convince people of what we're dealing with, we have to show them.

Are there many other underground film makers in Germany?
MJ: Yes, but we are the only ones who're doing it independently. We tried to get some support from German television for Nekromantik - they have open screenings - but when the woman who runs it heard the name Buttgereit, she turned her back on us! The regular way is to do it is to try and get money from the Government. There's some money that can be given to film?makers: you send in your script and maybe they support you, with the whole money or half the money. It takes too long to give them the script and for them to reply and you know what they're going to say anyway! If we do it ourselves, we are free to do what we want. Hollywood pictures are for too many people - I prefer films that are aimed at a few people, a special group.

So no chance of a Hollywood remake of Nekromantik, like they did with Three Men and a Baby, and are [were!] doing with The Killer?!?!
MJ: I think this is unrealistic. They couldn't deal with a story like this. I think I'm too old for all this moving around - and not just with your body, but also with your mind. I don't want to do what other people want me to do.

Buttgereit reviews:

  • Hot Love
  • Nekromantik
  • Nekromantik 2
  • Der Todes King
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