Marian Dora, 2005
Runtime: 72 min.
Format: Unearthed Films DVD

Cannibal is based on a real life incident involving Armin Meiwes and Bernd Jürgen Armando Brandes. In the actual incident, as well as the movie, Armin (never named in the film) places an ad on the internet looking for someone who wants to be cannibalized. Eventually, someone responded, and the real life Meiwes has been convicted of murder, despite some initial complications.

The film doesn't stray too far from what the public knows about the case. It starts off with a man (obviously the Meiwes character) repeatedly typing on his computer (the screen is obscured for the most part, except for a few vague words like "flesh" etc...) and then meeting up with various men, all who reject him. Eventually, through the internet, he encounters a man who honestly wants to be eaten. This thrills the man, and they arrange to eat. Eventually the man arrives; they spend the night naked, indulging in various pleasures and just messing around. Eventually the man who wants to be cannibalized cracks and demands that "it's time."

The theoretical cannibal goes over to the man and tries to bite his penis off, but cannot do it. The victim suggests that it would maybe be easier if he was asleep, so he takes a handful of painkillers and passes out. When he awakens, the victim is huddling in the corner of the room crying. Angered, the victim demands that the cannibal drive him back to the train station. After some hesitation, however, the victim decides to give the man another chance, and they drive back to the house.

Once back at the house, almost immediately the man cuts off the penis of the victim, and they both eat it. The man is constantly feeding the victim alcohol so he the pain is slightly eased, but it is visually clear the man is still very much affected. The man takes him to a bath tub where he lays and eventually dies.

The man then drags the body to a garage type location and proceeds to cut the body up. He then cooks the body and eats it, while the head of the man sits at the other side of the table, seeming to watch.

Cannibal, while a very noble effort from Marian Dora, does not succeed at all levels. It does succeed at being a very unflinching look at the incidents involved in Meiwes case, but aside from that fact, it fails. The first problem with the film is that it would have succeeded far greater had it been a short film. The first half hour or so are irrelevant depictions of the man walking around town and meeting with men (and one woman even) who end up rejecting him. Once the man finally gets an active response from the internet, the film starts to have substance. There is also a fairly useless prelude that has a grandmother reading her son the tale of Hansel and Gretel while a large slug crawls over the page. It adds nothing to the film, or the subtext, and is just seems like useless filler.

Secondly, while the dialogue in the film is minimal, the small amount of dialogue present is absolutely atrocious, not to mention ridiculous. I applaud the director trying depict an actual philosophical *importance* to the protagonists, but the manner in which this is attempted is laughable. The cannibal is soft spoken, while the victim is overly campy in his delivery, which detracts from what is obviously an attempt at a serious tone. It is actually distracting when the characters speak.

But at the same time, Dora's attempt to give the characters an unbiased pathos is nice- nobody is sensationally depicted as crazy, just individuals with a very, very deep need (fetish). Despite my repeated reference to the second man as the victim, this man is never in a compromised position. He seems to have more control over the situation than the cannibal himself. The act is depicted as utterly consensual. Also, the fact that Dora doesn't shy from showing the very sexual nature of the characters before the "finale" is an accomplishment, as the obvious (at least for the most part) audience for this film is the seasoned gore hound, who is generally a heterosexual male (despite an overwhelming history of subtle homosexuality and eroticism in horror movies, this, I think it's safe to say, remains a fact). More than the gore, the aspect of sexuality, seems to be what's so "gut wrenching" to the average audience (at least, that's what it seems like to me, reading several other reviews and comments on the web). So I applaud Dora's subversion of the "gore" genre, and appreciate the attempt and elevating it to an even higher, philosophical level, even though that more subtle level fails.

Also, the gore effects are wonderfully executed, especially for being such a low-budget film. As a short film with better dialogue I think the film could have had a chance at brilliance, but unfortunately at feature length with the aforementioned problems, it feels somewhat lacking. So I can't truly recommend or discount the film. Aspects of it are truly unique and interesting, so if it sounds like something you'd like to see, I guess I would say go for it.

Mike Kitchell, 2007