I can't help but wonder, after reading so many negative reviews, if people really got this movie. Yes, it is a commentary on a depraved culture. But, as the narration points out, the important things are not what makes us different from people like cannibal Oliver Hartwin, but what makes us the same.
As Hartwin, Thomas Kretschmann does a great job in a role that can be described in a mastery of understatement as "difficult." He plays a man who fantasizes about eating human flesh. He finds the yin to his yang in Simon Groembeck (Thomas Huber, equally superb), a man who's veritable truckload of I.S.S.U.E.S. see him abandoning his GQ model boyfriend to be eaten by a guy with a Herman Munster haircut and a predilection for beige. Go figure. They hook up over that great haven for all the demented and depraved - the Internet. Go team!
Kerri Russell narrates the film in a somewhat unnecessary framing device. Quite frankly, what I found most irritating about the film were the most over obvious attempts to sell it internationally - Russell is the known "face" but the majority of the cast is comprised of German actors. Why not film it in German? Why not drop Russell altogether and instead focus on the relationship between the two men? A relationship which is, in its own way, oddly affecting. For as the title implies...this is a love story.
Well, come on. How many movies does Hollywood churn out annually based on the central premise of a woman (once upon a time Meg Ryan, lately her mini-me Reese Witherspoon) and a man (preferably Hugh Jackman but Mark Ruffalo or one of the Wilson brothers in a pinch) who are made for each other? When you really examine it, this film is based around the same premise. These are two men who are, in Russell's own words as she drably narrates, a perfect match. Far too much screen time is given to Russell poking around Hartwin's farm house and looking generally freaked out, at the expense of the developing of the relationship between two true oddballs. This is not monster and victim - these are two lonely men who have found each other, and not nearly enough time is devoted to the why of it all.
In it's look, the film very much honors it's subject matter, to great effect. It is shot mostly in muted tones, yet avoids the trap similar films have fallen into - namely looking too dark and leaving the audience wondering if they need to turn the contrast on their TV up. Very much a 1970s horror movie feel. Clever tricks abound - we see a grisly horror film being enjoyed by Hartwin reflected on his eyeball in an extreme close up, while in an earlier flashback the camera travels under the sheets to watch him reading under his bedclothes as a child. The running time is concise, a mere hour and a half, with the majority of the film's most difficult to watch scenes occurring in the final twenty minutes. There is the odd unexpected moment of black humor - yes, you feel guilty for chuckling - while the bare bones script is stripped of exposition and all the better for it. On the whole it is a well made movie, not what you'd call entertaining, but a worthy watch none the less.