February 28, 2006

Real German cannibal tale set for big screen debut

By Philip Blenkinsop

BERLIN (Reuters) - A real-life German cannibal who ate a
willing victim is being immortalized on the big screen, like
the fictional Hannibal Lecter, despite his legal bid to block
the movie version of his gruesome crime.

"Rohtenburg" ("Butterfly -- A Grimm Love Story") is set to
open in Germany on March 9 and will hope to profit from the
shock and fascination the case of Armin Meiwes evoked in a
transfixed public in Germany and beyond.

The movie tells the tale of fictional American criminal
psychology student Katie (Keri Russell) who is drawn in by the
bizarre case of a Meiwes-like character called Oliver Hartwin.

The cannibal plot of the movie, seen in a preview on
Tuesday, is almost identical to real-life events. It also shows
a younger Hartwin as a loner forced by a domineering mother to
wear Lederhosen at school. Like Meiwes, he dreams up an
imaginary friend.

Later, as a computer repairman, Meiwes's career, he is
drawn to the "Cannibal Cantina" Web site in his search for a
willing victim, who he finds in Simon Grombek.

"I want you to bite off my thing. Are your teeth strong
enough?" Grombek asks in one of the movie's more startling

Later, when the two meet at a railway station near
Hartwin's half-timbered home, mirroring that of Meiwes, Grombek
introduces himself with the line "I am your meat" a prelude to
his slaughter.

Director Martin Weisz says the film is merely inspired by
real events, but Meiwes's lawyers are not convinced.

Meiwes's lawyer Harald Ermel complains the film effectively
portrays his client as a "beastly murderer," arguing the main
actor could be Meiwes's twin brother and that the movie is a
confusing blend of truth and fiction.

"The ending is all wrong. The victim is stabbed in a frenzy
a dozen times. In reality, it was just one stroke," Ermel said.


Meiwes has sought to block the film's release. A German
court will determine on Friday whether his rights have been
infringed after lawyers presented arguments on Tuesday.

Ermel also believes the March release date is inappropriate
as judges at Meiwes's retrial could then be considering their

The real computer repairman was sentenced to 8-1/2 years
for manslaughter in January 2004.

However, Germany's Supreme Court ruled the judges had been
too lenient and ordered a retrial, which started in January.

Meiwes only killed one man, unlike notorious American
serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who practiced necrophilia on and
ate some of his 17 male victims, but Meiwes's case is unique
because his victim wanted to be eaten.

Legal experts have focused on the case.

Meiwes's lawyers argue he is only guilty of illegal
euthanasia, but prosecutors say the fact that Meiwes filmed the
slaying for sexual gratification should tip the scale toward

Meiwes severed his victim's penis and they both tried to
eat it, initially raw then fried. The bizarre scene is also
part of the movie, Hartwin serving up the dish for a candlelit
knife-and-fork meal for himself and a weakening Grombek.

When the victim fell unconscious, Meiwes took him to his
"slaughter room," slit his throat, pulled out his organs and
chopped off his head. In the film too, Hartwin hacks into the
corpse, with a severed head in the foreground.

The movie title "Rohtenburg" is a corruption of Rotenburg,
the town where Armin Meiwes lived. "Roh" is German for raw.