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Old 10-05-2004, 08:03 PM
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Default Schramm




Reviewer: Jeremy
Review Date: May 23, 2001

Released by: Barrel Entertainment
Release date: 5/1/2001
MSRP: $34.95
Region 1, NTSC
Full Frame 1.33:1



The Story

inline Image Lothar Schramm (Florian Koerner von Gustorf) is a marathon runner, a taxi driver, and a vicious serial killer who has been terrorizing the streets of Berlin. Dubbed the "Lipstick Killer" by the media, Lothar now lays dying on the floor of his apartment, alone, in pain, and wearing a ridiculous pair of Hawaiian-style boxer shorts. As he takes in his final breaths, the memories of his last few days alive begin to come back to him....

inline Image His first memory is of being visited by a pair of Christians (Micha Brendel and Carolina Harnisch) who knocked on his door and asked him if he had ever truly though about God. Lothar accepted them into his apartment and went to get them something to drink. As they sat in his living room and sorted through the religious literature they planned to show him, he suddenly burst out of his kitchen wielding a knife. He brutally slaughtered both of them and stripped their dead bodies naked, making sure to take photographs.

inline Image Marianne (Monika M.) is a prostitute, and Lothar's next-door neighbor. Despite being rather disgusted by her profession, Lothar is nonetheless madly in love with her, although he is unable to communicate his feelings and she just views him as a friend. Lothar often fantasizes about her, picturing the two of them waltzing together in happiness. He also spends time masturbating and having sex with an inflatable doll shaped like a woman's torso, all while listening to the sounds of her and her customers through the apartment's walls.

inline Image One morning, Marianne is visited by a group of old men who ask her to come out to their mansion the following day for some work, although they're a bit vague about what services they want her to perform. They offer her good money, but she feels a bit uneasy about doing it nonetheless. She asks Lothar to drive her out to the place in his taxi and wait parked outside while she's inside doing whatever it is she's supposed to do. Lothar agrees to go with her. The next day Lothar drives her to the mansion, and she goes inside. When she comes out, she tells him that they videotaped putting on strange clothes and doing other things. Strangely, the men didn't seem to have any interest in having sex with her.

inline Image The next night the two go out to dinner, and then back to Lothar's apartment for drinks. Lothar tries to open up to her and talk about a disturbing dream that's troubled him, but she shows no interest, causing him to go off the deep end and drug her with something in her drink. He strips her clothes off and photographs her, but he doesn't harm her, and she wakes up the next morning not knowing that anything happened. Meanwhile, Lothar's mental state is rapidly deteriorating as he experiences frequent, disturbing hallucinations.

inline Image Like Nekromantik, director Jorg Buttgereit's most famous movie, Schramm is definitely not a film that's for everybody. Considering that the character of Lothar is a serial killer, there is surprisingly little emphasis on violence, with the killing of the two Christians the only crime committed by him to be graphically depicted. However, the movie still contains a few images which may cause even jaded viewers to squirm a just little bit, such as for example a scene that shows Schramm having sex with his blowup doll, which, while not long, still produces an uncomfortable effect. However, the most grotesque part of the movie occurs in a scene where Schramm pounds nails into his penis, an image that will probably bother any male who watches it. Although both scenes fit with the theme of the story, they are also indulgently handled by Buttgereit, who's obviously pushing the envelope just for the hell of it at times.

As far as serial killer movies go, Schramm is very unusually put together. As mentioned, the killings of the Christian couple are the only murders shown in-depth, with the audience only getting brief flashes of Lothar's other deeds. The emphasis is on neither the efforts of the authorities to apprehend Schramm, or on his actual crimes. It almost completely focuses on Lothar's feelings for Marianne and his own crumbling psyche. The film's vague, only semi-linear plotting adds a very surreal atmosphere in itself. As Lothar, Florian Koerner von Gustorf gives an interesting performance, and does manage to make a lasting impression. Although sympathetic is probably too strong a word to describe the character, Lothar is nonetheless a compelling character, and you can't help but feel a tad bit sad at his death, and von Gustorf's performance really does help the movie a lot, although maybe not quite enough.

If you were able to get through Nekromantik, you should have no problem watching this one. For me, it's a mixed bag - I enjoy the way the film is put together, but some of the visuals are hard to take. Depending on your taste in movies, you may or may not like Schramm, but if you're squeamish, you'll definitely want to think twice before watching.

Image Quality

Schramm is presented full-frame at 1.33:1, in a new transfer remastered from the film's original 16mm negative. A lot of work obviously went into this transfer. Most of the time, the image is nice and crisp, and colors look accurate. There are some spots that look softer than the rest of the movie, but this appears to be the fault of the original photography. Grain is always noticeable, but it's rarely a distraction except in a few scenes. I did spot some blemishes, and there were quite a few specks and vertical lines. Considering that Schramm is less than ten years old, I was a little surprised that it didn't look better, but then again, this was an extremely low-budget production. I'm going to give the image a B-, which I think is fair considering the film's origins.

Sound

Both the film's original German 2.0 Mono track and a German track re-mixed in Dolby 2.0 Stereo are available. The Stereo mix is an impressive job; the music score, which carries much of the film, sounds full and solid, but with a range that is properly balanced and which never overpowers the movie. Although the track won't put your speakers to the test, it does do a good job conveying the mood of the images onscreen. Dialogue (what little there is) has somewhat of a hissy quality, but I doubt that could've been helped. The Mono track sounds considerably weaker in comparison, with noticeable background hiss, and it sometimes seems like it's recorded either too low or too high.

Supplemental Material

inline Image Like their Nekromantik disc, Barrel has provided a fully-loaded special edition here, with the highlight being not one, but two commentary tracks. The first track, with Jorg Buttgereit and screenwriter Franz Rodenkirchen, is a very nice listen, although the two do struggle with their English occasionally. The two poke fun at some of the movie's cruder qualities, but also shed a lot of light on it's conception and production, and do the audience the favor of explaining some of it's more ambiguous parts. The second track features Florian Koerner von Gustorf and co-star Monika M., and while not as informative as the first track, is more entertaining. The two play off each other very nicely and have a lot of fun reminiscing about it, with von Gustorf even two jokingly throwing around ideas for a sequel.

inline Image Next up is "The Making of Schramm", a 35-minute look at the film's production, consisting of revealing (in more ways than one) behind-the-scenes footage and on-set interviews with von Gustorf. Although it isn't a conventional "making-of" documentary, it does provide an interesting look at how the film was made. The documentary is entirely in German with removable English subtitles.

inline Image Next we are treated to two of Buttgereit's short films. The first, Mein Papi ("My Daddy"), is the director's unique tribute to his father, who died of a heart attack in 1993. The 7-minute short consists of secretly-shot footage of the elder Mr. Buttgereit eating, lounging around in his undershirt and giving his son a hard time. The second short film is Captain Berlin (1982), a 10-minute action piece about a superhero in a Spiderman mask battling an evil villain named Mr. Sint. Both films were shot on Super-8, and are of acceptable quality. Both are in German with removable subs.

inline Image Also included are two segments dealing with Mutter, a German band that includes Florian Koerner von Gustorf as one of it's members. The first segment is "Die Neue Zeit", a clip of a music video directed by Jorg Buttgereit himself, as well as some footage showing it's production. The second segment is "Mutter Boxing", which shows a boxing match in a Berlin nightclub between von Gustorf and fellow Mutter member Kerl Fieser, apparently staged as part of a publicity stunt.

Finally, the release is rounded out by trailers for this film, Nekromantik and it's sequel, and Der Todesking, an extensive still gallery set to the film's soundtrack, a filmography of Buttgereit, liner notes from the director and his biographer, David Kerekes, and an amusing Easter Egg (accessible by going into the filmography and selecting the bloody hand in the picture included, so that it turns green), showing a segment on Buttgereit produced for Britain's Channel 4, which was yanked by censors before it could get on the air (after seeing some of the film clips included, you'll know why).

Final Thoughts

Buttgereit fans will find plenty to love about this release, especially in the two commentary tracks. Barrel's hard work on this release has definitely paid off. Be warned, Schramm is a film that will not appeal to a very large segment of the viewing population, and many will be turned off by it. But for those who do enjoy it, there is absolutely no excuse for not picking up this disc.

Rating

Movie - B-
Image Quality - B-
Sound - B+
Supplements - A

Technical Info.
  • Running Time - 1 hour 35 minutes
  • Color
  • Not Rated
  • 1 Disc
  • 32 Chapter Stops
  • German 2.0 Stereo
  • German 2.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
Supplements
  • Commentary with director Jorg Buttgereit and writer Franz Rodenkirchen
  • Commentary with stars Florian Koerner von Gustorf and Monika M.
  • "The Making of Schramm" documentary
  • Mein Papi and Captain Berlin, two of Buttgereit's short films
  • Clip of Mutter music video and making-of footage
  • "Mutter Boxing" segment
  • Trailers
  • Photo gallery
  • Buttgereit filmography
  • UK Channel 4 segment on Buttgereit

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