Jorg Buttgereit's second full-length feature film has no central character or characters, but instead thematic continuity in the act of suicide. Divided into days of the week, it comprises of a series of set-pieces, each of which featuring the self-destruction of a complete stranger. Yes, the production values are low and it's disturbing, but in many ways DER TODESKING / THE DEATH KING is extremely effective.

It makes you think which is sometimes more important than pure entertainment. Unlike the other Buttgereit's works it isn't very gory, but there are some unpleasant images like the castration scene in the Tuesday episode, a decomposing corpse and various acts of suicide. The last (Sunday) episode is so depressing and full of pain!-just amazing if you want my opinion. 10 out of 10 - check out this post-modernism shocker! Disturbing art in the purest form!

from imdb

A surreal exploration of death and suicide

The author of NEKROMANTIK, Jörg Buttgereit's second feature film, DER TODESKING is a powerful masterpiece. Centered around a chain letter originating from a group called "The Brotherhood of the 7th Day", the movie shows 7 episodes, each consisting of one day during one week, where suicide is approached using different characters and situations all the while the letter is making it's rounds.

Do not touch this one if you like Hollywood movies or musicals, enjoy happy or even remotely "normal" movies or expect a movie to be good only, if it is focused on stage acting. The nihilistic, avant-garde approach of DER TODESKING well explains, why Buttgereit's movies in general were banned in Germany, their native country of origin, during the 80's and most of the 90's.

Der Todesking is not really focused on the characters appearing on-screen, but the meaningless apathy or depression most people's lives consist of in general. Buttgereit does not find reasons to go on living, only reasons to stop, and in choosing how and when you die, you can also be the king of death, Der Todesking.

Buttgereit's movies are generally difficult to categorize and DER TODESKING is no exception. Featuring the same crew and almost the same cast as all other of his movies, "art film" would probably be the closest description every time. DER TODESKING features an original method to shoot, create the mood and handle the central object in almost every scene. During one scene, the camera slowly, continuously pans in 360 degree circle, while a person lives in a small one-room apartment for a day. During another, Buttgereit uses sound and film corruption to depict the collapsing mental state of a man, while he dwells in his desperation. During a third, seemingly pleasant scene names, ages and occupations of actual people to have committed suicide are shown on-screen.

Episode movies (and especially this one, as the scenes are only vaguely connected) generally suffer from incoherence, and Der Todesking is no exception. While all episodes have the same focus of inflicted death and it's consequences or subsequences in all it's variations, there are very powerful episodes, yet an episode or two might even seem like filler material, partly draining the overall power of the movie - still, the jaw-dropping, immensely powerful intermissions depicting a decomposing body manage to keep the movie together and cleanse it from it's more vague moments back to the status of greatness.

The general atmosphere is baffling, awe-inspiring, highly depressing and sometimes even disgusting - so much so that dozens of people left in the middle of the movie during a theater showing in a film festival I took part of. This is one movie that does leave a lasting impression and I strongly recommend it for anyone looking for a special experience and something they will definitely remember in years to come. Not recommended for the faint of heart or show time fans, this is a small, different movie that truly raises feelings in the audience. Whether it be confusion, amazement or even hate, you aren't likely to be left cold by this, in my opinion the best, achievement of this small indie crew.

The main theme of the movie, "Die Fahrt ins Reich der Menschentrümmer part I-III" was released in a limited 666-piece 8" vinyl edition, which is now much sought after. You still can get the classical masterpiece by getting the NEKROMANTIK soundtrack CD, which I highly recommend. The Lo-Fi synthesizer music in the movie is dark and quirky, almost illbient-like, makes an essential part of the movie's atmosphere, and is something you would very, very rarely hear otherwise. Much recommended!

aerisama from Finland on imdb


Directed by Jörg Buttgereit
Written by Jörg Buttgereit, Franz Rodenkirchen
Produced by Manfred O. Jelinski, Jörg Buttgereit

Hermann Kopp
Angelika Hoch
Michael Krause
Eva Kurz
Bela B Felsenheimer
Nicholas Petche
Heinrich Ebber
Jörg Buttgereit

Music: Hermann Kopp, Daktari Lorenz, John Boy Walton         
Director of photography: Manfred O. Jelinski
Best boy: Jan Hartmann
Assistent director: Franz Rodenkirchen
Edited by Jörg Buttgereit, Manfred O. Jelinski
Stills: Christine Karallus

1989, 75 min.