Published on December 3rd, 2013 | by Clint Davis
Grimm Love 
Summary: This shockingly screwed-up "love story" was ripped from the German headlines. It's a well-acted account of the ultimate taboo that may induce heaves as well as profuse head scratching.
R | 87 min.
Director: Martin Weisz | Screenplay: T.S. Faull
Starring: Keri Russell, Thomas Kretschmann, Thomas Huber
Studio: Phase 4 Films
The old cliche goes, “You can’t make this stuff up…”, with 2006’s Grimm Love, I’m inclined to believe that. If you locked Eli Roth, Wes Craven, Stephen King, and Rob Zombie into a room with only a typewriter, I doubt they would dream up a plot involving an aspiring cannibal meeting up with a guy who simply wants nothing more than to have his penis bitten off and eaten along with the rest of his body–while he’s alive for most of it. Nope, it’s not fiction…
The 2001 case of the “Rotenburg Cannibal” Armin Meiwes serves as the inspiration for this psychological thriller which attempts to explore the events that led to this truly grim case. Thomas Kretschmann stars as Oliver, a lonely middle-aged man who spends his evenings exploring online communities where users discuss their cannibalistic fantasies. After posting several “Dear John” ads looking for a willing victim, he’s eventually answered by Simon (Thomas Huber), a young gay man that feels he’s endured enough pain for one lifetime. The pair eventually meet, with Simon swallowing a bottle of painkillers chased with two bottles of liquor in order to dull himself enough for this consenting feast to take place.
Just like in the real case, Oliver decides to cover his bases by filming the entire brutal evening, including an interview with Simon clarifying that he is indeed volunteering himself. Years have passed and a young American college student named Katie (Keri Russell) is intently studying the case for her criminal psychology thesis. As the film plays out in flashbacks, Katie digs into the events leading each man to that desperate night–eventually tracking down her holy grail in a copy of the infamous snuff video.
Grimm Love has the dingy aesthetic quality of a David Fincher film on a much smaller scale, with even the score being full of droning piano pieces that lull you along. The performances of all three leads are strong, especially Kretschmann and Huber who avoid overacting while playing out this genuinely creepy tale of soul mates. Both are subtle, almost to the point that they feel robotic–especially when the deal is going down. There are emotional moments for each during the climax but both are mostly distant as they take this sick but intimate journey into darkness. Russell meanwhile sheds enough tears for everyone in the cast as her character becomes obsessed with understanding the case.
There are a lot of things about this film that will frankly have you dumbfounded with confusion as its narrative unfolds. One device used by director Martin Weisz is having Katie visit certain locations from Oliver & Simon’s past, as flashbacks reveal to the audience why these are important places. However, it’s never really clear whether Katie is seeing these flashbacks too–and if so, how in God’s name does she know the exact lines of dialogue being spoken in an arbitrary third grade science class of Oliver’s?! She also carries a device which I will label the “magic camera”, because it seems every time she snaps a picture, it triggers a pivotal flashback sequence that reveals vital information about each man’s psyche…I wouldn’t be surprised if CBS isn’t working on a pilot right now of the female criminal psychologist who uses her magic camera to crack the case!
I digress–Grimm Love‘s storytelling technique is a total mess, with head-scratching moments like these present throughout. With that said, the story itself isn’t so bad but it’s a bit off-putting how the film seems bent on giving cannibalism a pass so long as it’s consenting. Even the world’s biggest ACLU supporter would have a hard time arguing that it’s fine for two people to get together and attempt to eat each other–so long as a waiver is signed. In its attempt to humanize Oliver (and by extension, Meiwes), the film justifies the awful climactic event by spinning it into a pseudo-love story. These two characters are bound together by their intense loneliness as well as a dark yearning to literally be joined with someone else. At one point, Oliver even tells Simon, “We were meant for each other.”
Meanwhile, Russell’s character is also desperate to fill a dark void in her own personal life as she becomes enveloped in this frightening plot. Katie is a refreshing female lead as she is attractive without having a single love interest, conversely she is so focused on her professional goals that it begins to dominate her life in an unhealthy way. I mentioned above that she becomes hysterical at some point in the film–making her look crazy during a public bus ride where she begins talking to her magic camera…you know it’s pretty bad when a film is about a guy who eats another man’s penis yet she still manages to look insane.
Grimm Love is better than most of its Fangoria Frightfest classmates, which isn’t setting the bar very high. Its mood is effective, aesthetics are sleek, and performances are believeable, but it could have used some extra care in the writing department.