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German Cannibal Blocks Release of Hollywood Thriller

DW staff (sp)
March 3, 2006

A self-confessed German cannibal, currently on trial for murder, managed on Friday to halt the release in Germany of a US-made horror film based on his case.

Armin Meiwes also know as the "Cannibal of Rotenburg"Image: AP

A Frankfurt-based court upheld a complaint Friday against the film "Butterfly -- A Grimm Love Story" based on the story of Armin Meiwes, a real-life cannibal who shocked Germany and the world when details of his gruesome crime came to light two years ago.

The court which made the ruling on Friday said although Meiwes' case was of great media interest, it did not give its makers any right to portray the case in a horror film.

It added that the film, directed by Martin Weisz and starring Hollywood actor Thomas Kretschmann (of "King Kong" fame) in the main role, infringed Meiwes' personal rights -- a fact that outweighed the value of artistic freedom.

According to the court, the psychological thriller is based on significant biographical details and personality traits of Meiwes, who is currently facing a retrial in a Frankfurt court.

Cannibal wouldn't mind documentary

The film was due for release in Germany on March 9 and was set to profit from the disgust and fascination that Miewes' case triggered around the world.

Anyone found defying Friday's court ruling to screen the film could face a fine or up to six months in prison.

Haus des Kannibalen
The house where the crime took placeImage: AP

Meiwes' lawyer Harald Ermel told German N24 TV news channel that while his client was "satisfied" with the decision, he would not object to a "documentary film" about his case being made.

The 44-year-old Meiwes was convicted in Jan. 2004 of manslaughter and given an eight-and-a-half-year sentence for slaughtering and consuming a 43-year-old computer specialist from Berlin at his home in the central German town of Rotenburg and videotaping the act. Meiwes had met his victim on the Internet after he advertised for someone willing to be eaten.

A federal tribunal last April upheld an appeal lodged by state prosecutors, calling the verdict too lenient, and ordered a new trial which began in January. Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence.

Based on real-life events

The Hollywood thriller 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.

Much like Meiwes' life, the cannibal plot of the movie shows a younger Hartwin as a loner forced by an overbearing mother to wear Lederhosen at school. Like Meiwes, he dreams up an imaginary friend.

Later, as a computer repairman -- Meiwes's own profession -- the film-character is drawn to the "Cannibal Cantina" Web site in his search for a willing victim.

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