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DVD Review: Grimm Love

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"What you are about to see is inspired by a true story that happened in Germany not too long ago…"

The Armin Meiwes cannibal murder case is the basis of Grimm Love, a German import that had been banned in Germany in 2006 before it could be released, because it “infringed upon the personal [or personality] rights of Armin Meiwes.” Subsequently, the film was sold for international release and the ban was annulled in 2009 (in favor of “freedom of arts”).

American actress Keri Russell plays the part of Katie Armstrong, an American graduate student studying criminal psychology in Germany, fascinated with the case of a cannibal who lured his willing victim using the Internet. They met in a “cannibalism chat room.” As the story develops, she narrates, spinning a tale of her building obsession with the subjects of her research.

Flashbacks inform the viewer of the tortured childhood of Oliver Hartwin (Thomas Kretschmann), a lederhosen-wearing schoolboy, following him and a friend spying on a neighbor woman butchering a pig and watching slasher films at the cinema, as well as his being overly mothered at home. Katie visits the school he attended as a child and is expelled from the building for digging into its dark memories. Flashbacks of Simon Grombeck’s (Thomas Huber) life expose his boyhood guilt, and his adult love affair and fascination with butchered bodies.

Katie visits the home Oliver lived in as an adult — dominated by his shrewish, scraggly-haired mother to whom he was doggedly devoted — going so far as to break a window to gain access. As she goes from room to room taking photographs, flashbacks delineate events that had occurred within, all of them ominous.

Grimm Love is an effectively creepy film. The subject matter is darkly illustrated by moody cinematography, downbeat portrayals, and an overall gloominess. Parallel tellings of the graduate student’s growing obsession and Hartwin’s descent into a madness few would want to witness are seamlessly edited. As she becomes more involved in her research, she begins to identify with him.

Not for the squeamish, Grimm Love will have viewers wondering every time someone is seen with a fork, but not wanting to discover the menu. No matter how sympathetically the characters are portrayed at times, the audience will be making value judgments. Some of the most revolting scenes are bloodless as Oliver reads from the chat room instructions on how to set up for the slaughter of a human, and prepares a potential victim for butchering. When Oliver and Simon exchange e-mails, queasiness is inevitable.

While much of Grimm Love is dramatization and fiction, much of the relationship and actions between Hartwin and Grombeck are true to the Meiwes case. It is dark, intense, and disturbing, so devoid of comic relief (or any other relief) that it nearly serves as documentary. Viewers know how the relationship between the two men will turn out, and speculate where the graduate student’s fixation on the macabre case will take her. The horror depicted may cause viewers to stop the movie before they find out.

Grimm Love is sinister, depressing, repugnant, and abhorrent. It is also well made, though I think I would have been happier if I hadn’t seen it. And, yes, I watched the entire film.

Trivia fans may be interested to know that after Meiwes (formerly a computer technician) entered prison, he became a vegetarian. An amazing (or maybe not) number of movies, television programs, and songs were inspired by or contain references to the Meiwes case.

Grimm Love will be released under the Fangoria Frightfest Banner, in conjunction with Lightning Media, on September 28. No special features have been announced for inclusion in the DVD.

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