The opening scene is a montage of a couple in love, while a voice-over reads Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee” – a sure sign that things are not going to end well. Sure enough, in the next scene, the young woman takes a fatal fall while climbing after a kitten. The boyfriend cannot bear to part with the corpse, and off he goes with the body, making his way cross-country to the lake where we first saw them in love, and all the time the corpse and his mind are slowly rotting away.
Chee…y stuff, clearly, and one to add to the not-inconsiderable body of necrophilia-themed movies. Grim, slow moving and with very little dialogue, this has some of the atmosphere (though not the extremity) of the Nekromantik films. There are many long scenes of driving through depressingly industrial landscapes, while gloomy songs play (in their entirety) or the poems of such maudits writers as Poe, Baudelaire, Artaud and Rimbaud are read. Definitely one of the darker road movies out there. The glacial pace (among other things) makes this a challenge to watch, but the film is admirable in its single-minded commitment to working out its theme.
The sound is a serviceable mono. This might seem a bit weak for a 1998 release, but this is a micro-budgeted 16mm epic, so stereo would be too much to hope for. The mono is clear and warm enough.
The picture is a disappointment. Granted that the source material means that resolution and colour aren’t going to be very strong, and that grain is going to be very apparent (and all of this is so), the transfer compounds these problems. The blacks are abysmal, the image is very soft, and artifacting (in the form of pixelation) is severe. The aspect ratio is 1.85:1 non-anamorphic most (but not all) of the time.
Writer/director Constantin Werner’s commentary is good one, describing both the shoot and the ideas behind the movie. “The Making of Dead Leaves” is a very decent featurette of its kind. The menu is basic.
The transfer is a real shame, and this isn’t the most crowd-pleasing film out there. Still worth a look, though.
Special Features List
- Director’s Commentary
- Making-of Featurette