Tuesday, July 06, 2004


BERLIN - 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, the western state ruled by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats.

Mr. Meiwes was sentenced in January to eight and a half years in jail for manslaughter after a trial whose gory details riveted Germany. He admitted killing a Berlin computer specialist he met via the Internet, but was spared a murder verdict as the victim had asked to be eaten in a startling case of sexual fetishism. Mr Meiwes recorded the deed on video tape 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 film by critically acclaimed filmmaker Rosa von Praunheim is stirring up political arguments even before its completion, set for December. Mr. 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 Mr. von Praunheim, who teaches directing at the Film and Television Academy at Babelsberg in Potsdam near Berlin. In von Praunheim's film, Mr. 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.

"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 Mr. von Praunheim, adding the movie would be laced with black humor.

The film is not strictly biographical and has fictional elements because Mr. von Praunheim has not acquired the rights to the cannibal's story. After the trial, which attracted worldwide media interest, Mr. Meiwes had received several inquiries from film companies interested in his story.

"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.

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