Schramm (1994) I am dirty, but tomorrow I'll be just dirt.
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Schramm - I am dirty, but tomorrow I'll be just dirt.

Anyone familiar with the work of Jörg Buttgereit (notably Nekromantik and Nekromantik 2) will know not to expect a straightforward or even coherent story from Schramm. Buttergereit relies on abstract concepts, shock visuals and often penises to convey a mood rather than presenting a story from A to B. It is a squint into the mind of a killer as his life flashes before him and as a consequence the whole film plays like a dream sequence insinuating a tale without spelling out the concept to the viewer. As is also expected from Buttgereit there is some nightmarish, drawn out gore targeting the most delicate parts of the anatomy and some bizarre sexual activity.

Also known as Schramm: Into the Mind of a Serial Killer, it focuses on just a couple of Lothar Schramm's killings leaving it up to the imagination as to if he committed any others... or leaving it up to the unimaginative pedants to point out a serial killing requires three victims. Most of the story revolves around the troubled mind of Lothar (played by Florian Koerner von Gustorf) and how his aspirations have not come to fruition. He leads a lonely life making sweet love to an inflatable torso with a vagina while listening to his next door hooker get fucked by her creepy clients.

Buttgereit forces you into the mind of his killer whether you want to go there or not. We suspect that Schramm aspired to be a runner but various scenes involving detached limbs and prosthetic legs indicate that this was not an option. It is possibly another consequence of a damaged mind as his legs seem fine. We learn that Schramm has an obsession with his neighbour Marianne (Monika M) but his preference to drug her and take photos of her bra while being haunted by the solo career of Dawn O'Keefe's private parts indicates there are some further security issues here. Use of repetitive imagery may be reflective of the daily traumas of a troubled mind or may be a money-saving moviemaking technique. The shout out to Nekromantik on the car radio is a nice touch too.

The plot does not flow but that seems to be the intent. We are presented with the ending first and the rest of the movie is a flashback, and flashbacks within flashbacks and various interactions of flashbacks seeming relevant but actually connected with a different flashback. The story is simply that Lothar fancies his neighbour, he is afraid to do anything and hides his fantasies behind their friendship. Marianne (the hooker next door) gets some strange but well paying clients and he drives her to their house. One day, when religious people come to Lothar's house he murders them, paints their lips with lipstick and photographs their corpses in various sexual poses, starts to repaint his house to cover up the blood splattage and falls off a step ladder. Meanwhile Marianne has to entertain her new clients unaccompanied and finds out they are Nazis or something and Lothar Schramm gets labelled the lipstick killer by the tabloids.

The story is interjected with many of the flights of fantasy from within the mind of Schramm as his reality warps in the recesses of his brain. His dental appointment becomes an eye removal appointment with a gender changing optician. He nails his foreskin to a table (a scene which leaves nothing to the imagination) and he continues his relationship with the inflatable lady torso. Lothar also shows his humane side with acts of kindness to his neighbour and the impeccable cleanliness of his sex toy. There are also some more subtle scenes of craziness, like car journeys gone mad, raising doubts as to whether any of the movie happens in the non-fantasy world.

There is a lot of symbolism in Schramm which is once again left to the viewer to interpret. Does the sex toy reflect Schramm's objectification of women? Do his acts of sexual self harm reflect his insecurities about his inadequate manhood? Does the dentist removing his eye reflect his lack of self control? Does Buttgereit have any other objectives except to shock and confuse? This vagueness is what inspires thought about the film and any revelations here would probably reveal that there is no real substance.

Schramm can only be described as an "art" film. It is a visceral expression of the nightmares plaguing a killer, nothing more and nothing less. People will either read deeply into the visualisations and obscure narrative or will dismiss the whole affair as a pretentious exercise in filmmaking. It is undeniable though that Schramm will provoke, whether that be disgust, anger, boredom or some kind of twisted admiration.
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