Schramm Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Cult Epics
Directed by Jörg Buttgereit
Written by Jörg Buttgereit and Franz Rodenkirchen
1993, 66 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on April 12th, 2016
Florian Koener von Gustorf as Lothar Schramm
Monika M. as Marianne
Lothar Schramm is a socially awkward guy who wants to be happy and live a normal life, but he just can’t get it together. He is secretly in love with Marianne, the girl next door, but she has placed him squarely in the friend zone where Schramm is more than happy to help her out if she needs a ride to work or anything else if it means he can spend time with her. He doesn’t have any friends or family to speak of and spends most of his time isolated in his apartment. Sadly, even this depressing scenario is a bit of a sugar-coated misrepresentation of the truth. Acquiring notoriety as “The Lipstick Killer”, Schramm is actually a mass murderer prone to fits of rage and self-mutilation. His relationship with Marianne is more complicated in that she is a prostitute that he can only score with after he drugs and molests her while she is unconscious. When we first meet him, Schramm is in the process of painting over the blood-spattered evidence of his most recent double homicide when a nasty fall from a ladder leaves him mortally wounded. Everything following this jarring introduction is told in a series of non-linear flashbacks revealing the events of the last few days leading up to this moment.
Director Jörg Buttgereit (Der Todesking) tackles the serial killer subgenre with Schramm, a dark tale told from the perspective of the murderer rather than his victims or the police chasing him. Presented almost exclusively through Schramm’s viewpoint, audiences are pressed to determine what is real and what is a dream or hallucination. This is not so much a plot-driven piece as it is a dark character study similar in tone to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986). Florian Koener von Gustorf is better known as a producer (Phoenix) than as an actor, but here he stars as Lothar Schramm, an unenviable task that requires him to give everything he’s got to the portrayal of a disgusting example of the depths to which man is capable of sinking. He disappears in the role, giving 110% and at times managing to capture a few moments of sympathy before returning to his repugnant habits. One of the loneliest scenes finds Schramm cleaning up a used sex toy in the bathroom, doing so with a passive deliberateness that suggests this is not the first nor will it be the last time he performs this sad task.
Monika M. (Nekromantik 2) stars as Marianne, the whore next door who is just trying to get by in life. She is given the opportunity to make a lot of money if she agrees to some role-play with a group of elderly strangers. It is here where the actress shines, as Marianne appears both opportunistic and vulnerable in her attempts to get Schramm to assist and protect her. She is a good woman in a bad environment, unable to see the evil that lives directly across the hall. Monika M. shares a great on-screen chemistry with von Gustorf and together they give the appearance of a normal couple. Having placed her on a pedestal in his fantasies, it is interesting to watch how reality plays out when she doesn’t match his expectations. Longtime Buttgereit cinematographer Manfred O. Jelinski returns behind the camera to deliver more stunning visuals including a disorienting look through the windshield as Schramm taxis Marianne around the city, at one point apparently driving in circles. Elaborate rigging is put to good use as Jelinski employs his signature moves to convey the overall mood around the apartment, highlighted by a workout sequence that presents a fresh perspective on sit-ups.
Independent cinema of the early 1990s was flooded with a glut of “walking and talking” pictures that explored the nature of relationships and the uncertainty of life. Schramm is a dark spin on the poetic art house scene. Although I am partial to the Nekromantik films, Schramm is likely Buttgereit’s most accomplished work as a director. By placing the characters at the front of this dark tale, we are witnesses to the titular character’s crimes. The disjointed structure of the flashbacks limits the amount of information given, and by mixing memory with fantasy, we are forced to guess at his motives. There is no redemption for Shramm or anyone he crosses paths with, as evidenced by a scene where moments after he passes a man on the street, we see the stranger commit suicide. The majority of the film is shown through our anti-hero’s perspective, but for the sake of closure, there is one final moment that reveals Marianne’s fate which is both jarring and satisfying. This is a difficult picture to recommend since mainstream audiences will be immediately repulsed by the content, but die-hard Buttgereit fans may feel let down by the lack of over-the-top murder set-pieces. I do encourage potential viewers to be patient and trust that the director remains in control of the tale he is spinning.
Video and Audio:
Schramm is presented in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio and sports an all-new HD transfer of the original camera negative. The film elements are in fine condition and are free from dirt and scratches. Colors are vibrant and black levels rich while flesh tones remain natural throughout.
There are two audio options, the original 2-channel Dolby Digital stereo presentation and a newly expanded DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix that opens up the soundtrack quite a bit. Both are up to the task with the latter making more use of the rear channels.
Schramm is a German language film and English subtitles are provided.
Special Features:A friendly introduction (1 minute) from the director offers no apologies for the content of the film, but expresses gratitude to fans for watching.
There are two audio commentaries; the first pairs the director with his writing partner and together they reflect on the challenges of making the feature. Highlights include tales of casting and hearing Buttgereit’s motivations and intent behind certain scenes.
The second track allows the two lead actors the opportunity to discuss their reactions to the film and what it was like shooting some of the more salacious moments. While both are entertaining and informative, the first is more technical while the other is a laid back session with much laughter.
The Making of Schramm (35 minutes) offers interviews with cast and crew while presenting production stills intercut with behind-the-scenes footage taken on set.
A photo gallery slideshow (6 minutes) plays with music from the film and offers a look at the cast and crew working behind the scenes as well as some promotional images in both color and black and white (100 images).
A collection of Buttgereit’s early short films are included for completists, including the anthology Horror Heaven (23 minutes), provided with an optional commentary. Blutige Exzesse Im Führer Bunker (8 minutes) and Mein Papi (7 minutes) are also on hand to provide a look at the director’s narrative work.
Fans of the soundtrack will be happy to hear the original score is included as an isolated track.
A Buttgereit trailer gallery offers the marketing campaigns for Nekromantik, Nekromantik 2, Schramm and Der Todesking.