Last weekend I had a chance to cover the Housecore Horror Film Festival (click here to read my recap.)
Over the course of the festival, I had a chance to chat with Jorg Buttgereit the controversial film director of gruesome German horror films ‘Nekromantik’, ‘Nekromantik 2’ and ‘Schramm’.
For someone so versed in the dark and macabre, Buttgereit couldn’t be more charming and friendly in person, frequently breaking into boisterous laughter during our conversation.
He explained that despite his horror film notoriety, he’s largely migrated away from feature filmmaking and moved into directing stage and radio plays and TV documentaries, including one on Japanese Monster movies.
When asked about this transition, he explained it was largely by necessity as the pressure of censorship over his movies became too oppressive;
“I’ll never get offers for films in Germany. So I got an offer in 2005 to do a Ramones musical and that worked out…so that was a challenge but it turned out great. Tommy Ramone came over from NY to supervise it.”
Despite this switchover, he’s emerging into filmmaking once again, with the horror movie anthology ‘German Angst.’ The idea for the project initially came from Andreas Marchall (the poster artist for ‘Nekromantik’): “So he got an idea to do an anthology movie …and because I didn’t pay him well 25 years ago I felt guilty…and said okay I’ll do it…And it’s kind of necessary for me to do a horror movie in Germany because we don’t have a horror culture and its so depressing.”
When asked why horror films have such a negative connotation in Germany he theorized, “I think they’re afraid that if you see a movie like Evil Dead you come out and you can kill people…maybe it has to do with the German past. There was so much death after the World War II…and horror movies are always dealing with death…that this is just not appropriate” (to put it in perspective he mentions that the original ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ film was banned in his home country until last year.)
When asked how he feels his films have held over the years he was self-effacing; “I’m surprised they’re still around…’Nekromantik’ was just a film I did with my friends on the weekends, but the fact that I’m sitting here 20 years later and its playing at Housecore, and I was just screening it at the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles…. and in Germany people were giving me funny looks like; ‘Where are you going?’ I’m going to LA to the American Cinema where they’re screening my old horror movie. They’re like: ‘You’re kidding!’”
When asked if he intentionally tries to create controversy with his work, he admitted, “The first ‘Nekromantik’ was a protest against censorship…I was trying to make a point by doing this film without any limits…not applying to a censorship board…it was hard but I think necessary. Because I made an example to get it labeled as art…so that a horror movie could have artistic value. So that was the plan and I succeeded…so the mission was accomplished after that. So I went into the next spot where I could do some harm” he says chuckling.
Buttgereit feels he’s been effective at getting horror reappraised through his stage plays and documentaries; “So my goal is to take all these so called trashy things I really love and put them into the title of art culture because in Germany these things are not considered art. So it’s not so much provoking; its taking care of the things I care about and put it in a place where I think it belongs.”
He feels this is particularly appropriate with his recent stage play about B-movie director Doris Wishman; “If you put that on stage in Germany people will come watch it and listen carefully. But if you were to screen it as a movie, no one would come because they would say it’s trash. So I try to interfere in the concept of art in Germany and it works pretty well.”
When asked what his main influence is on his art, he makes a surprising admission: Japanese monster movies.
“I really love the Godzilla movies…but it wouldn’t really make sense for me to do a Godzilla movie. I would like to do it because it fun but for me its more of as challenge to do something like that on stage. So I did a soundtrack for a Japanese monster movie on stage where people who could make noises and acting and stuff.”
Buttgereit’s enthusiasm as both a filmmaker and a curator of horror cinema shows a passion and dedication to a genre that often feels feared and disrespected. Which is why a festival like the Housecore Horror Film Fest is so important so that his work gets the attention and artistic spotlight it deserves.
For more information on ‘German Angst’ (including where you can donate via Kickstarter) click here to visit their official website.