Der Todesking aka The Death King
Being that I am a huge fan of German director Jörg Buttgereit (fame Nekromantik) I was thrilled when I opened the mail to find Der Todesking. Der Todesking was one of the few Buttgereit films I had yet to see. I sat down turn on the blu-ray and down the rabbit hole we went.
The film is all about violent death, whether it be by suicide or murder. There was no central plot, or main characters. The way this is achieved is my breaking the film up into seven different short stories. Each story is linked to a day of the week. The week being the only connection that these deaths have. I will break down each day in this review, seeing that you know there is deaths I will not be cutting short on who dies for this review.
Monday: A man comes home, call his boss and quits his job. He writes a few letters, though you never really know to who or about what (unless you assume they are suicide notes. Which I did. After he is done he cleans his apartment, than makes his way to the bathroom. He gets in the tub and swallows some poison. His fish also dies at the same time, (I wasn’t sure if those was supposed to be symbol of the fish being the only thing the he had close to a friend or a symbol of Adolf Hitler who killed his dog before killing himself. Buttgereit is German after all and doesn’t skimp on the symbolism)
Tuesday: A man rents film, (I believe it is Ilsa She Wolf of the SS, thought I have never seen it so I am not sure. This further compounded my belief that the first sequence was a symbolism of Hitler.) On the TV Nazis castrate a man on the screen, than use his own blood to paint a swastika on his chest. At this point the man’s girlfriend comes in the door, she berates him till he pulls out a gun and shoots her. After shooting her, he places a picture frame around her brain matter that splattered on the wall. Though you find out this is all a movie or show within the episode cause you find out it is on a TV in a room where a man has hung himself.Wednesday:
(Just so you know this scene has the most talking out of the entire film. The rest of the film there is probably on 5 to 10 lines uttered) It is pouring down rain, a man and women meet on a park bench. He begins to tell her about his disastrous
sex life which in turn led him to killing his wife. She pulls out a gun which he takes from her and shoots himself (Again a symbolism of Hitler who shot himself, after not wanting to face justice for what he did).
Thursday: This was by far the most boring segment of them all. This episode is simply a bridge as the names and ages of people who have jumped from it appear on the screen.
Friday: A woman is alone in her apartment, she is spying on a young couple, who look happy and in love (Who in guessing live in her building). She find a chain letter at her door it urges her to kill herself everyone in the build has seem to have got one, she ignores it. (Some people speculate that these are the letters that were written by the man on Monday. But again this is only speculation.) She eats some chocolate and falls asleep. She has a weird dream of I think it was herself walking in on her parents while they make love. The scene cuts back to the young couple who is now in bed bloody and dead, leads one to guess they got the same letter and fulfilled it.
Saturday: This episode was my favorite of the film and was also the most action packed. A young woman goes to a concert with a gun and a camera and opens fire killing and wound a bunch of people. Recording it all film this had a very sick and twisted feeling of some if the things happening in the world today (The film was made in 1989). Finally someone kills her and the scene ends.
Sunday: Finally our last and final episode, though this one was one of the more simple scenes it will be hard to watch for some people. A man simply sits alone on his bed and smashes his head against a wall till he finally succumbs to brain damage and dies.
As a side note, in between each day we slowly watch a body decay, I decided to add this at the end because there isn’t a real easy way to decide a body decaying through a review.Well ladies and gentleman that is it, the whole ride. The film is not a roller coaster of emotion. It was actually in the slow side for me. I understand that Buttgereit does a lot of artsy stuff but the pace suffered. The audio sound track was never changed over from German which doesn’t matter much as most of the film is silent anyway, but the parts where the English subtitles are they do become wonky at points. I attributed this to the fact that not all people speak the same language and certain phrases do not transition to English all that well. The video has its issues as well, being they had to take it from an old 16mm print. The film stands the test of time for what it is. It is a character study of death. That being said like most of Buttgereit’s films, this one again is not for everyone. So if you decide to take the journey don’t do it when you're tired as the movie runs at a very slow pace.
reviewed by Bucky