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Possibly the grisliest entry in the eight-film FANGORIA FrightFest lineup (available through Blockbuster stores and Blockbuster By Mail, as well as digitally via Blockbuster On Demand, beginning August 6) is the cannibal shocker GRIMM LOVE. This twisted romance is based on the real-life case of cannibal Armin Meiwes, who gained worldwide notoriety when he ate Jurgen Brandes, a man who responded to an on-line ad Meiwes placed seeking someone who would allow themselves to be consumed.
GRIMM LOVE (a.k.a. ROHTENBURG and BUTTERFLY: A GRIMM LOVE STORY), an English-language German production directed by Martin Weisz and scripted by T.S. Faull, uses this tragedy to explore what led these two damaged men down a path that culminated in such an atrocious act. It’s not the blood or severed limbs that will make you cringe, but the honest and horrific portrayals of these two (very) disturbed men, rechristened Oliver Hartwin and Simon Grombeck for the fictionalized feature and played by KING KONG’s Thomas Kretschmann and Thomas Hubar respectively.
It was the human side of the case that drew Faull (pictured right) to the project. “I heard about the news story and I found it fascinating,” he says. “Not only Armin Meiwes, but also Brandes—the guy who sacrificed himself, who offered himself up to be eaten. I found that really interesting. I mean, why would somebody do that? That’s what drove me to tell the story.”
Apparently the same question piqued the film’s producers, who were surprisingly eager to tackle such dark (and true) subject matter. “I wasn’t the one who started the project,” Faull explains. “The producers already had the rights to the story and were going to make it whether it was me or someone else. They were just interviewing writers, and they ultimately chose me.
“They were intrigued by these events just like I was, just like a lot of people who read about them on the Internet,” Faull continues. “It’s a very striking story. They’re independent producers, and one of the benefits of working with independent producers is that they’re not necessarily scared of dark subject matter. We had great freedom in telling the story we wanted to tell; there weren’t all the usual commercial considerations. It was very freeing.”
But freeing doesn’t mean easy, and the time constraints of the GRIMM LOVE production forced Faull to crank out the script (which frames the disturbing events with a subplot featuring a grad student, played by Keri Russell, researching them) at a breakneck pace. “They already had a start date,” he recalls. “It was a very unusual process; that’s not normally how movies work. They already had the financing, so they needed a script quickly. I wrote the first draft in three weeks, and that stretched out into two months or so with rewrites and notes and everything.”
Such a turnaround time would take its toll on anyone—and that’s before you factor in the copious amounts of research required for this script. “I was exhausted,” Faull says. “I did a lot of research on-line, and I also had access to the case paperwork from Germany. But of course it was all in German, so whenever I needed something translated, I had to ask the producer Marco Weber to find out what it said.”
Faull and the producers also had several meetings to discuss how the film’s violence would be handled. “Martin didn’t want it to be a bloodbath, because what really drew us all to the story was the men’s psychology. Even though we didn’t shy away from what eventually happened, we didn’t want it to be about watching a body being cut up. There were real people involved and it actually happened, and it was very tragic.”
After Faull turned in the script, the film went into production in 2005, but hit many snags on its way to release—including being banned in Germany for nearly three years. “It was crazy,” he recalls. “Literally, I believe, two days before it was to open in Germany, it was banned. The cannibal Armin Meiwes was objecting, saying that it violated his rights that a movie was made about him, even though it was fictionalized. I mean, they found all these similarities between our movie and his life, of course, because it was really inspired by that.” There was a happy ending, though: “The ban was rescinded last year, and the movie finally did get released in Germany.”
Despite the troubles getting the film seen in its home country, it has gone on to gain quite an international reputation, winning several awards at the Sitges film fest. “I was thrilled,” the writer says. “That’s such a highly esteemed fantasy/horror festival, and I was so proud. The two leads, Kretschman and Huber, shared Best Actor, Martin won Best Director, and we got Best Cinematography for Jonathan Sela. I was very happy that it was well-received. We’ve definitely been quite fortunate on the festival circuit.”
And now, having been picked up for FANGORIA’S FrightFest, GRIMM LOVE will finally be seen by more U.S. viewers. “It has been sitting on the shelf for a while,” Faull laments. “[Producers] Senator Entertainment were going to start releasing movies themselves, so they decided to hold onto it until they could put it in theaters. Unfortunately, their first release, THE INFORMERS, didn’t do well, so it didn’t work out. I’ve just wanted people to see it, because I believe it’s a terrific movie. It’s really just about people getting a chance to experience it, whether theatrically, on DVD or video-on-demand. It’s very unique, and beautifully filmed.”
Truly, the film does look gorgeous, and one wonders how the production was able to bestow it such a lush appearance on a small budget. “Jonathan Sela is brilliant,” says Faull. “He went on to shoot MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN and LAW ABIDING CITIZEN—he’s one of the top cinematographers right now. The movie just looks spectacular. And it’s also not your usual fast-edits/loud-sounds-making-you-jump kind of movie—it’s more thoughtful. It’s very creepy and haunting, so when you’re sitting in the dark, it’s easy to get absorbed and unsettled by it.”
With the spotlight suddenly thrown on GRIMM LOVE, Faull has other genre projects to discuss. “I was on a project called LIVING DEAD GIRL, but it isn’t really happening anymore. I was writing it for Mandalay, and we had a great director attached: [Montreal’s] Eric Tessier, who did EVIL WORDS and 5150 ELM’S WAY, which are both terrific movies. It was just one of those situations where there’s a regime change at the company and priorities change, and the project just doesn’t happen.”
Fortunately, Faull has more lined up. “I just finished a script called VIOLENT CRIME,” he says. “It’s not horror, it’s a crime thriller, but the focus is really on the characters. It’s sort of like Hitchcock’s STRANGERS ON A TRAIN in a support group for violent crime victims. We have a very cool director attached who I can’t really announce right now, but were trying to get that set up. That’s the main thing I’ve got going on.”
Not only that, but the writer is also thinking of taking the helm of an upcoming feature. “I have a horror script I wrote that I want to direct,” he reveals. “It’s in the very early stages, and right now I’m working on other projects so it’s sort of on the back burner. I want to get it going in the next year. I like thrillers and love horror. It’s my favorite genre, and has been since I was kid, and I definitely want to stay in it.”
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