REVIEW: MELANCHOLIE DER ENGEL (2009, TetroVideo)

Melancholie der Engel is a German independent experimental horror film from 2009 from the twisted mind of notorious filmmaker Marian Dora. The film is a marathon spanning over 164 minutes and is sure to give seasoned horror fans a much needed shock to the system.

Two male friends meet again and assemble a group including young women they met at a carnival to share their last days in an old rural house. This isn’t no party, things turn bad very quickly and the disastrous turn of events reveals the horrifying depths of humanity.

Melancholie der Angel pulls out all the stops to ramp up its production values. The incredible score is composed by exploitation legend David Hess, famous for his roles in The Last House on the Left (1972) and The House on the Edge of the Park (1980). This is hands down one of the greatest soundtracks I’ve ever heard (and I’m not exaggerating). The music plays an important part in the film as it carries the mood and gives it an otherworldly dimension.

The film has beautifully shot dreamy visuals with nightmarish themes. Infact, the film plays out like a long winded nightmare which is likely to shock you multiple times but the stunning cinematography makes it as pleasant as it can be to watch.

Melancholie Der Engel is like a swear word to most people in the horror community but also a badge of honour for those who can sit through it in its entirety. The subject matters dealt with in the film will no doubt push alot of peoples buttons and it is by nature very triggering at times. In the opening scene we are shown a brutal assault of a pregnant woman with clips of black caterpillars circumnavigating bark. This acts as an early warning and tests its audience before it takes things much further and much darker…

At times, the film is totally savage and other times it is tranquil. This is where most people will struggle to last the distance, the continuous dread of something bad happening looms over every moment in the film and it never gives you a chance to breathe. This is where the film really strikes a chord with its bleak outlook and dangerous intentions. Many critics may criticise the film for delivering shock purely for the sake of being edgy, but this is far from the case. Bad stuff is always waiting around the corner, you just don’t know when.

The controversy surrounding the film stems from its very realistic and uncompromising scenes which deal with sexual violence, self mutilation and strong drug use but it just tried to keep things as real as possible and not dilute its content for the sake of giving people a solemn experience. If you are familiar with Dora’s work, nothing will come as a surprise but if you are not you are in for a shock.

Expect to see things which make you feel sick. Dead animals, sacrilegious themes, very graphic sexual violence and abuse. But there is also a ton of nonsense thrown in to lighten the tone from cracking open an ostrich egg to make breakfast to creepy dolls to eating insects. It is safe to say, Melancholie der Engel crams in so much as it can from an extreme perspective that after a while you become numb to it.

It is a journey through cruelty and suffering spanning nearly three hours and it is not supposed to be an easy ride. Melancholie der Engel is an extreme art house film with no subtlety or filter; a piece of provocative cinema which tests boundaries. It’s long run time will test the patience of most viewers but it is worth sticking around for.

It is worth mentioning, its not all smooth running for its entirety. The overstretched run time feels more than a tad too long at times and the animal cruelty is needless at times. Apparently not all of the scenes involving animals are real but I really can’t tell. The film paddles in very pretentious waters at times and the subtext becomes lost in its convoluted plot but this is common ground for a Dora film so you just have to let it runs its course.

On a psychological level, Melancholie der Engel had a very strong emotional impact on me due to its prolonged scenes of bleakness which are very depressing. You are exposed to so much that it can build a numbing affect after a while but the variety of extreme content prevents the film from becoming too overwhelming or tedious. The most distressing scenes in my opinion were those involving a disabled woman in a wheelchair being abused, her ear piercing screams will haunt me for the rest of my life.

This film is a quintessential piece of extreme cinema which stands as one of the most disturbing and grotesque. Melancholie der Engel is Marian Dora’s calling card, if you want to dive into his challenging filmography then this is the best place to start. It doesn’t smell of roses, it reeks of death.

Score: 5/5

Melancholie der Engel is available to purchase from TetroVideo on DVD.

MELANCHOLIE DER ENGEL – 250 limited edition

MELANCHOLIE DER ENGEL – LIMITED 50 GOLDEN MEDIABOOK