‘Grimm Love’ – A Grisly Yet Thoughtful Look at the Rotenburg Cannibal

I’m at a loss for words. I just watched a movie where one guy willingly let another guy eat his penis and I am at a complete loss for words. Well, maybe not completely. The phrase ‘what the fuck?’ keeps running through my brain.

The movie, Grimm Love, is based on the true story of Armin Meiwes. Meiwes was the guy that placed an ad on an internet message board that he was ”looking for a well-built 18 to 30-year-old to be slaughtered and then consumed” Never mind that the message board, The Cannibal Cafe, had posted a disclaimer mentioning the distinction between fantasy and reality. I guess Meiwes never read the fine print. But what’s more disturbing about someone placing an ad for a human meal is that someone would actually answer the ad. But that is exactly what Bernd Jürgen Brandes did. The two met on March 9, 2001. Meiwes attempted to bite off Brandes penis, but it was too tough and he had to use a knife. The two of them attempted to consume it but Brandes found it to be too tough and chewy. Afterward, Meiwes killed and dismembered Brandes and over the next ten months devoured parts of his body. He was tried and convicted and eventually sentenced to life imprisonment for first degree murder.

Thomas Kretschmann plays the Meiwes stand-in Oliver Hartwin, a solitary man seeking a volunteer to slaughter and devour per his cannibalistic urges. When the eager Brandes (Thomas Huber) responds, what follows tests the limits of comprehending such unconscionable acts. Their tragic backgrounds, from domineering mothers to early trauma, only explain so much.

Wisely, the film offers no simple answers. The chill comes less from gory enactments of the crime than quiet moments probing the abyss of loneliness and damage that spawned this darkness. We search the killers’ eyes for some glimmer of understanding, but find only vacancy.

While dramatized for film, the core aspects of manipulation, codependence and dehumanization remain disturbing in their authenticity. ‘Grimm Love’ succeeds not by sensationalizing the gore but revealing universal need for purpose gone horribly awry. In the end, we gain only glimpses into the madness through the cage bars.

There were two things I kept thinking about as I watched this film. The first is why would anyone want to eat another human being? The second is why would anyone volunteer to be eaten by another human being? Grimm Love tries its best to explain it by giving us glimpses into Meiwes and Brandes childhood. Supposedly Meiwes had a domineering mother who consumed (pun intended) all of his time. On the other hand Brandes’ mother committed suicide when he was a child and he blames himself for her death. I guess a mother’s suicide is enough to make a guy want his penis bitten off. But hey, who am I to criticize?

Unsettling yet thoughtful, ‘Grimm Love’ proves that even life’s most unthinkable horrors arise from tragically familiar human needs. By trying to understand the clearly un-understandable, the film haunts long after its chilling finale.


“Inspired” by the real life story of the “Cannibal of Rotenburg”, Armin Meiwes, who mutilated, killed, and finally ate a man who had previously agreed to Meiwes doing just that with him. Both men met on the Internet where media subsequently discovered vast communities of people fantasizing about eating and being eaten by others sharing their “quirk”.

When Oliver visits the Cannibal Cantina message board, the thread titles “Meat Hook Sodomy,” “I Will Kill You,” and “Orgasm Through Torture” are taken from songs by the death metal band Cannibal Corpse.

When screened at Sitges, the film caused one viewer to faint.