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Der Todesking (The Death King)

Directed by Jorg Buttergeit
Germany, 1989

German spectacle of suicide is a film to be watched a couple of times for full appreciation. A general knowledge of the German language could also help along your comprehension of the film better. Along with the infamous ‘Nekromantik’ Der Todesking is director Jorg Buttergeit’s first directorial outing in a full length feature. Der Todesking appears to be very in depth and meaningful, Buttergeit is known for his over abundance of symbolic messages and poetic insights which are contained in most of his movies. Its not a straightforward movie and for some this will spoil the viewing. Those appreciative of Buttergeit’s artistic demeanor and attempts to make an underground production with substance will no doubt get enjoyment out of it.

Unfortunately the subtitles do a less than competent job in translating the dialogue as you will see at the beginning of the movie. Der Todesking consists of a number of short movies (that may or may not be interrelated) which make up the full length film. Each of the movies are about suicide or death and even have a tribute to the Ilsa movies. The events happen over the span of a week as a day appears before each part of the movie. Buttergeit manages to maintain a moody feeling throughout, some scenes just have this depressing and dirty quality to them, its disturbing on all accounts. Its hard to figure out if Buttergeit intended the film to be a disjointed full length feature of different short films he made over a particular period of time or wanted to explain why people commit suicide. It could be an analysis or it could be his general interest in suicide itself.

Buttergeit was a well known underground German film director but has seemingly disappeared from the genre. Compared to the other notable German horror movie directors Andreas Schnaas and Olaf Ittenbach Buttergeit’s films tried to be more artistic instead of straight ahead onslaughts of gore.