Back in April, Mondo Exploito’s head honcho, Dave, wrote this great review of Jörg Buttgereit’s miserable 1990 classic, ‘Der Todesking’. Consider this post a companion piece of sorts. Like Dave, Jörg Buttgereit holds a very special place in my heart. The first time I saw ‘Der Todesking’, like my introduction to all Buttgereit’s films, was courtesy of a bootleg VHS copy. All of his films made an impact, but it was ‘Der Todesking’s’ particular grim imagery that really imprinted itself upon me, even more so than his more well-known ‘Nekromantik’ films. When one begins to explore Buttgereit’s films, it becomes apparent that, despite the subject matter and absence of budget, this is a talented filmmaker. Buttgereit once said, somewhat famously, ‘The society gets the films it deserves’, and this ideology has informed all of his work. Given the nature of these films, one has to wonder, what, as a society, have we done?
I’m not going to bother relaying the synopsis of ‘Der Todesking’. As I said, read Dave’s excellent review from April. I do, however, believe that this film has a sound track that should be explored in its own right. Like several other Buttgereit films, the score for ‘Der Todesking’ was composed by German electronic musician, Herman Kopp. Kopp’s work as a film composer is relegated strictly to the realm of Buttgereit’s films – in fact, he hasn’t a film credit to his name since ‘Nekromantik 2’ came out in 1991. In ‘Der Todesking’, Kopp took his involvement one step further by appearing in front of the camera. For those playing at home, he plays the part of the unfortunate man who drowns himself in the bathtub in the ‘Monday’ episode.
While Kopp’s work with film is a rarity, he has remained very active musically. In 1979, he became a member of German industrial band, ‘Keine Ahnung’. In the 80s he released several LPs of minimalist electronica before teaming up with Buttgereit in 1987 to compose the score to ‘Nekromantik’. It was during the next three years that he’d work with Buttergeit twice more with ‘Der Todesking’ and ‘Nekromantik 2’ respectively. His work since this collaborative period have focused on abstract soundscapes and possess a dark nature.
Kopp’s score for ‘Der Todesking’ follows a similar trajectory to his other Buttgereit scores, possessing an overtly dramatic sound. When separated from Buttgereit’s imagery, it can be difficult to understand how the two really fit, but therein lies one of the reasons Buttgereit’s films are so special. By forgoing traditional horror score tropes, his films stand even further a part from the the genre than they already do. Using a combination of strings and industrial thrust, this music becomes a strange amalgam, utterly unique yet in possession of recognisable constructs. The use of strings infuse the sound with an almost baroque sensibility. The sound is decidedly low-fi, which upsets the baroque characteristics it flaunts. When you add the simple electronic progressions and monastic vocalisation, it all adds to something truly memorable, almost playful.
This may be an opinion shared by me alone, but when listening to this score, particularly the track ‘Poison’, I’m reminded of an RPG on the Super Nintendo. There’s a good chance I’m remembering incorrectly, but I have images of ‘Secret of Mana’ and ‘Secret of Evermore’ while this music plays. There’s something ’16-bit’ about these sounds, even at their most organic that I can’t shake. Whether you agree or not, this is something that has enhanced my listening.
Please enjoy the following selection of tracks from Hermann Kopp’s score for Jörg Buttgereit’s ‘Der Todesking’.