Saturday, May 7, 2011

Nathan almost cries during a movie: a review of Grimm Love.

I’ll be honest with you folks, it’s pretty rare that I get really emotionally involved in a movie. Instead of thinking “oh, that’s so sad” for example, I’m thinking “that was an effectively done scene.” I analyze too much I guess. In fact, there are only three movies I can ever remember crying during. One is Where the Red Fern Grows. I haven’t watched it since I was about ten and I don’t intend to ‘cause I know exactly what will happen. Number two is Phantasm 2, when they trash that beautiful Hemicuda. The third is The Muppets Take Manhattan. That “Saying Goodbye” song is just about the most heart wrenching thing ever recorded. I want it played at my funeral as they carry my casket out. Well, I had one of those rare cinematic emotional moments a couple of nights ago. I didn’t cry, but my heart strings were indeed pulled and I may have almost gotten a little misty. A Little. Maybe. The film in question is none other than Grimm Love.
Grimm Love is based on the real life case of a German man named Armin Meiwes. He had always wanted to eat someone. As luck would have it, he met Bernd Brandes, who apparently had always wanted to be eaten, in a cannibalism themed chatroom. Brandes made himself Meiwes’ willing victim, so he killed and ate him... but not before they shared a last dinner of Brandes’ severed penis. In the film, Keri Russell plays a student doing a research project about the famous case. As she gets deeper and deeper into her research, the dark world she is uncovering takes a mental toll on her. Her story is intercut with a portrayal of the two men’s lives, from childhood up through their final, bloody moments.
First off, I would like to state that the whole half of the movie with Keri Russell’s character should not have been there at all. It wasn’t needed. That has nothing to do with it being Felicity in the lead role. She wouldn’t be the first actor from a crappy TV show to transition into a good movie career. It’s not her acting, because she’s actually pretty good. It’s the fact that the life story of the cannibal and victim duo is just so well done that every time it switched back to Keri, I was angry that they disturbed the proceedings. Instead of being a viable part of the story, it became a distraction to wait through until we could get back to the good stuff. Her story had very little substance at all. In the DVD commentary, director Martin Weisz says that originally her story had much more to it, but that it ended up on the cutting room floor. I don’t know if that would have made her story interesting or not, but I doubt it would have been as interesting as the story of Armin and Bernd, who are renamed Oliver and Simon in the flick. It almost seemed as though Keri was just there to add name recognition to the poster.
I wish we had just gotten a straight ahead fictionalized biopic of the two men because this portion of the movie is brilliant. The child actors who played the two characters as boys did an excellent job. I wish this part of the film had been extended. However, the fake “old, scratched film” thing that was employed during the childhood scenes would have had to go. It’s ok for a little while, but it would have gotten tedious. Where this movie really shines is in the portrayal of the characters adult lives. It is beautifully shot. The unnecessary framing device notwithstanding, the story is told just right. The movie could have easily turned into an exploitative gorefest or a cautionary descent into the heart of darkness (not that there’s anything wrong with either of those), but here it becomes a beautiful tragic love story. No moralizing is done, and nothing is really sensationalized. The events are just told the way they occur.
The acting by Thomas Kretschmann as Oliver and Thomas Huber as Simon is downright amazing. They are the reason the “love story” aspect of the film works. In less capable hands, these would have been one note characters. These two men give these characters real personalities. We understand them in a way. We see that it’s not malice or masochism that drives these men. While eating or being eaten may not be within the realm of thought of the audience, thanks to these performances, we almost understand why they would need these things to be fulfilled. They truly bring these characters to life with a gravitas that I rarely see in a so called horror flick. There is one moment in particular that stood out in my mind. The two men are in Oliver’s house. Simon is sitting on the bed, waiting for the bottle of cough syrup he had drank to kick in as Oliver stands over him. The two men, without saying a word, share a moment that is absolutely powerful and moving. Just the look on Simons face as he looks up at Oliver is so emotionally complex that you could write essays about that single frame. There’s fear, peace, resolve, love, excitement, passion, awe, and so much more wrapped up in that one look. The phrase “getting inside a character’s head” is thrown around very easily when talking about film, but rarely have I ever seen it pulled off this skillfully.
Ok, now the moment that choked me up. This isn’t really a spoiler, but, well, you have been warned. At the film’s climax, the drugged but still fairly lucid Simon is ready to be eaten. He has gone on and on previously about how this is the moment he’s waited for his entire life and it must be perfect. Oliver has already failed at biting off Simon’s penis, a big part of Simon’s fantasy, and had to use a knife. Oliver has cooked it and they sit down together to eat it. Simon is quickly bleeding to death, and is fading fast. As he tries to take a bite, he says weakly “I can’t. It’s too tough.” Then, he slumps forward onto the table and, with the utmost despair in his weak voice, says “It was supposed to be perfect.” My god. This man has been planning to do this extreme act for as long as he can remember. He has finally found someone who understands him enough to fulfill his ultimate wish. He only gets one shot at this, and it will be both the crowning moment and culmination of his existence. It went wrong. How crushing is that? His entire life has been leading up to this moment that would have brought him both fulfillment and validation, yet he will face his last moments on earth filled with regret and disappointment. If that doesn’t get to you, if you can’t feel that, you just aren’t human. That one scene, which many have described as over the top and revolting, isn’t. If you look past the literal action and watch the human side of the drama unfold, it is quietly heartbreaking. It hit me right in the gut, and for a moment I forgot I was watching a movie and was overtaken by the emotion of the moment. I can’t remember the last that happened in a film.
I have been described by more than one person as a sick freak. I guess that might be true to an extent, and Grimm Love demonstrated this. Many people thought this film was disturbing. I thought it was beautiful. Well, at least the half without Felicity. It’s not graphic in the least. Instead, it’s a character study of two men with damaged psyches trying to find meaning in their lives, finally connecting with each other against all odds, and fulfilling each others needs despite what the world at large would think of them. In the end, isn’t that really what everyone is looking for? It's well made and incredibly well acted. It's a tearjerker really. I watched it with Leah, who cries over a movie at the drop of a dime. She made the point that most people would be horrified at this and moved by more traditional fare, and here I was having an Old Yeller moment during the penis eating cannibal scene. I can see from the character’s perspective that the murder and cannibalism weren’t acts of violence, but acts of love, and I can sympathize with their personal tragedies. What can I say? Maybe I am sick, but you wouldn’t want me any other way. Two severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

that was indeed a movie worthy of two severed thumbs up! i being a girl and watching both Malibu Shores and Felicity, loved Keri Russell as actress. I believe that she did a great job in 'Grimm Love'; but, you're right, she was not needed in it. i think they needed a big name.

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