Armin Meiwes, the German cannibal who gained global notoriety for eating a willing victim, is being immortalized in a movie by a gay filmmaker, and hardly surprisingly, the project is already running into controversy. The film, whose working title is Your Heart in My Brain, has received nearly $25,000 in public funding from a regional film foundation in North Rhine-Westphalia, a western German state ruled by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats. Meiwes was sentenced in January to 8-1/2 years in jail for manslaughter after a trial publicizing gory details that riveted Germany. He admitted killing a Berlin computer specialist he met through the Internet but was spared a murder verdict, since the victim had asked to be eaten--in a startling case of sexual fetishism. Meiwes recorded the deed on videotape and shocked the court with his matter-of-fact account of how he severed the man's penis at the latter's request and how they both tried to eat it, first raw and then fried in a saucepan.
Billed as a mix of "grotesqueness, thriller, and documentary," the movie by critically acclaimed filmmaker Rosa von Praunheim is stirring up political arguments even before its completion, set for December. "Even the title of the project could scarcely be more tasteless," said Axel Wintermeyer, legal affairs spokesman for the conservative Christian Democrats in the state of Hesse. "This is creating a monument to a perverted criminal," said Wintermeyer, adding that he was appalled the film was being funded partly by taxpayers' money. Von Praunheim, a 61-year-old gay activist who has made over 50 films including an erotic comedy entitled Can I Be Your Bratwurst, Please? said the case intrigued him, as he had been studying cannibalism for the last 20 years. "What interests me is the gay aspect and that it's also about sadomasochistic experiences," said Von Praunheim, who teaches directing at the Film and Television Academy at Babelsberg in Potsdam, near Berlin. "I don't know if it will shock people. People tend to react with disgust on the one hand and curiosity on the other. We always say I love you so much I could eat you," said Von Praunheim, adding that the movie would be laced with black humor.
The film is not strictly biographical and has fictional elements because Latvian-born Von Praunheim, whose real name is Holger Mischwitzky, has not acquired the rights to the cannibal's story. Meiwes's lawyer Harald Ermel could not be reached for comment. After the trial, which attracted worldwide media interest, Ermel said Meiwes had received several inquiries from film companies interested in his story. In Von Praunheim's film, Meiwes is confronted in jail by his victim's head, which encourages him to be proud of what he has done and to carry on killing, according to the film foundation, which also helped fund Wolfgang Becker's much-awarded Good Bye, Lenin! "I think it's arguable whether a film like this will glorify him; it all depends how it's done," said Reinhard Boeckh, spokesman for the North Rhine-Westphalia government.