Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Schramm (1994)

"Today I am dirty, but tomorrow I'll be just dirt"

Following a newspaper headline announcing the "Lonesome Death of the Lipstick Killer" Schramm cuts to the dying body of Lothar Schramm (Florian Koerner Von Gustorf), his impending demise the result of a decorating accident. As Lothar's life ebbs away, we are witness to a bizarre stream of disjointed flashbacks and hallucinatory sequences, with no real distinction between the two, detailing the life and times of Lothar Schramm.

Living what many would consider a sad, lonely and desperate existence, we discover Schramm's obsession with his prostitute neighbour Marianne (Monika M). Listening through the walls of their adjoining apartments as Marianne entertains her johns, Schramm occasionally masturbates or fucks what can only be described as a rubber female torso. After being asked by Marianne to accompany her on a job out of town in his taxi, Schramm waits outside and observes Marianne dressed in Hitler Youth regalia. By way of a thank you, Marianne takes Lothar out for dinner but is drugged by him once they return to his flat for a nightcap. Once unconscious, Schramm removes Marianne's clothes and takes several polaroids of her inert body during a set piece that must rank as Buttgereit's most accomplished scene to date, the camera rising high above the scenario before slowly beginning to rotate. Waking fully clothed the following day, Marianne is unaware of her recent ordeal at the hands of her kindly neighbour.

Schramm again agrees to escort Marianne on another job, however before they leave, a pair of Christians hoping to spread the good word visits Schramm. The only thing spread is the blood of the bible bashers, Schramm slitting the throat of the man before bludgeoning the woman with a hammer. After stripping the bodies Lothar places them in a variety of sexual positions before snapping off some pictures. Whilst painting over the bloodstains on the walls, Schramm falls from his ladder and lies dying in the position that we found him at the start. Receiving no answer from Schramm, Marianne goes to her job alone. The final shot of Marianne shows her tied to a chair, a look of utter terror etched on her face.

In addition to his fixation with Marianne, Schramm is also haunted by a number of strange visions that include waking up to find a leg severed, having an eye removed by his dentist and being attacked by a vagina with teeth! The most wincing episode occurs when Schramm nails his foreskin to a table but it is unclear whether this is dream or reality.

Each of Jorg Buttgereit's movies have shown a consistent improvement and maturity from the previous effort and the trend continues (or should that be concludes, given Buttgereit's recent lack of activity in the director's chair) with Schramm. Uncomfortable, disturbing but essential viewing, Schramm blends sexual and violent imagery together and fuses them into an indistinguishable whole in the eyes of Lothar Schramm.
Along with Nekromatik and Nekromantik 2 Barrel Entertainment's 2001 DVD release of Schramm forms an essential trio of superlative releases of Buttgereit's movies and must surely be considered the definitite version of the film available. Boasting a new digital transfer from the original 16mm negative with clear english subtitles spread over 32 chapters, extra features on the disc include two separate audio commentaries, a 35 minute making of, several Buttgereit shorts and music videos, a bizarre boxing match between members of the band Mutter compered by Buttgereit, trailers for all of Buttgereit's movies and an extensive stills collection courtesy of the director himself and producer, Manfred Jelinski.

Rob Bewick

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