Initially named after a part of the brain which is thought to be the centre of emotion, memory and the nervous system (Hippocampus) it was very interesting to discover that the rest of the title is composed of ‘M’ due to the directors love for Fritz Lang’s 1931 classic, even though this is not necessarily apparent and in fact is usurped more by a sensual approach to film typified, when in an interview, director Fennert states that “…cinema for me is suffering, is realism, is breaking” and from this we arrive at the final part of the title ’21th’ referring to the 21st century.
While elusive director Fennert, so elusive apparently even the cast did not see him on set and this leads me to ponder many conspiracies about his actual identity, also goes on to speak at great length about his admiration and respect for the Italian writer/director Rino Di Silvestro (Werewolf Woman, Love in a Woman’s Prison), which is perhaps more in line with this effort than the work of Lang.
Essentially a portmanteau film, consisting of six key segments which unfold in separate apartments, joined together with the underlying and cohesive theme of perversion, however the wraparound theme doesn’t really seem to add much to the overall film simply serving as a brief respite (with a jarring modern score) before are invited almost as voyeurs to the next apartment.
Due to this set up the film naturally lacks any real narrative let alone even any dialogue but instead focuses on being a sensory experience. Reminiscent of an arthouse film in parts, Fennert shows that he is capable of some exceptional shots and is able to handle both the art and the sleaze with equal aplomb but for some the actual level of sleaze and depravity may disappoint but does leads us to ponder the question can we separate depravity and perversity in relation to the film and the viewer as due to the nature and style of the shooting the viewer almost becomes complicit in the acts.
Of particular praise meanwhile is the fantastic appropriation and juxtaposition of base perversity and (sophisticated) classical music that significantly contributes to helping build the anticipation leading up to the eventual climax and the viewer cannot help but feel the desired emotion thanks to its use.
Over the six segments the levels of perversity explored are sitophilia/incest (the first segment), pediophobia/chelidolagnia (second segment), coprophilia/klismaphilia (third segment), formicophila (fourth segment), necrophila (fifth segment) and globophobia/coulrophobia (sixth segment) and as you would expect, despite having the same director and writers, the results are varied, however the first, second and fifth segments are all noticeably strong in terms of direction, raw power and sensory engagement with the second segment coming across the strongest to me. It was perhaps the most straight forward and direct of all the segments and so may not appeal to all who seek this out due to its more blunt and visual nature as opposed to psychological but ultimately the segment benefitted from being tighter and arguably more in line with my own film tastes.
Meanwhile the fifth segment invites, what admittedly, could be a lazy comparison to certain scenes in Buttgereit’s 1988 flick Nekromantik but thankfully is handled in a much less hilarious manner which helps keep the tone of the film; although it needn’t of bothered as the proceeding segment is just bizarre, threatening to fall into an art school arthouse parody at any moment potentially off balancing the film and leaving the viewer perhaps with a weaker impression overall than they should have.
This clearly is not going to be for everyone, lacking narrative it will immediately remove those who want a simple, vanilla horror but worryingly, despite initial appearances, it is not necessarily for fans of the extreme side of gore/horror (Slaughtered Vomit Dolls, Guinea Pig Series) as it generally is a lot more sensual than that and as such I worry that it may struggle to find an audience, but something tells me that the director is not worried about that and those who it is meant for will get it.
The film uses the tag line “Elegant. Weird. Perverse” and it certainly lives up to that.
To visit the Film’s website click here.