JWR Articles: Film/DVD - The Burning Moon (Director/Writer: Olaf Ittenbach) - June 30, 2012

The Burning Moon

3 3
98 min.

Contemplating the reasons why

With the likes of Luka Magnotta’s grisly past making its way through the legal system, it is somewhat instructive to take in a viewing of one of, arguably, the most “gorrible” videos of the 20th century. Sadly, the actual snuff and dismemberment films widely available on the Internet today considerably reduce the impact of the shock and horror components of Olaf Ittenbach’s gruesome invention.

Drug addict, unemployed, gang member Peter (Ittenbach) frames the narrative by being forced to babysit his younger sister. Having just shot up and seeing the full moon in flames, the lost boy opts to give his still wide-awake sibling a couple of grim fairy tales that are generously bathed in pools of blood.

The central characters of both have much in common. In “Julia’s Love,” Cliff Parker (Bernd Muggenthaler’s only screen performance—it’s a tough act to follow) has been having nightmares and acting up to deadly effect since witnessing his grandpa chop his innocent grandchild’s mother to bits. Too easily escaping from an insane asylum, Parker continues his quest (“I want to be accepted.”) to find a wife, settle down and live normally—no matter how many bodies it takes. Ittenbach moves back to 1957 for the second bloody yarn, “The Purity.” Here, the town vicar is haunted with inner knowledge of his long ago pubescent vision where his call to the pulpit was personally delivered by the devil. Accordingly, he pretends to be god’s servant by day only to rape and murder after hours, knowing in his evil heart that he is actually purifying his victims on their way to a much finer life after death (just as Parker explains that he is freeing, not killing his victims).

As the body count rises and the crimson tide threatens to become a post-earthquake tsunami (aided and abetted by A.G. Striedl’s synthetic score that deftly underpins and balances the most brutal on-screen atrocities with curiously calming accompaniments as various limbs and organs fall into frame—butter fingers and getting an eyeful find new, horrid meanings here), the mind struggles to understand the motivations of the three troubled men. The struggle stems from the undeniable understanding—again thanks to the immediacy of YouTube et al—that while the stories are fictional, the desperate acts occur around the planet more frequently than any human being might care to admit. Does death beget death? Does societal scorn unleash murderous acts? Are the hidden away voices within us responsible for these senseless acts of violence and unwanted sex?

To further drive home his beyond-the-carnage theme, Ittenbach weaves an element of vicious bullying into the gory fabric. As the village priest’s (Rudolf Höß devours the part and his targets with blessed grit and unholy gusto) crimes continue (ironically presiding over their funerals) the locals decide for themselves that the weakest outcast in their midst must be the culprit. Not coincidentally named Justuz (André Stryi is appropriately helpless even when forewarned) is rescued from one bashing by his spiritual leader before having to face the ugly wrath of thug-for-hire, Frank (Kurt Nauder). This revenge-without-evidence climaxes in an out-of-this-world visit to The Kingdom of Pain. The depiction of eternal agony is too-long-by-half (except for those who have been victims of cowardly bullies), allowing Ittenbach to use every special effect up his sleeve to create a blood-and-guts tableau that seems to be populated with the same lost souls as the earlier sequence in an Earth-side mental illness institution.

Definitely not for the faint of heart, The Burning Moon—seen more as an anthropological study than fright flick—might well stimulate some difficult thoughts and discussions as to what price we can expect to pay for shunning or shuttering the different amongst us. JWR

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