This no-budgeter is uniquely stark and creepy but also excessively
drawn out and monotonous, essentially a promising short stretched to
DEAD LEAVES unfortunately shares the title of a popular
2004 anime, and the two are often confused (see the Amazon.com listing
for this one, which contains a product description and user reviews for
the other). This DEAD LEAVES is a live action no-budgeter by the German
filmmaker Constantin Werner (of 2009’s PAGAN QUEEN), completed in 1998
and released on DVD by Cult Epics in 2005.
Joey and Laura are a white trash couple living in
seeming harmony in New York City…until one day Laura falls, hits her
head and dies. A couple of undertakers turn up at Joey and Laura’s
filthy apartment to haul the corpse away, but the mentally unstable Joey
steals it out from under them. Thus begins a cross country road trip
with Laura’s cadaver in the front seat.
In a cheap New Jersey motel Joey makes up Laura’s
corpse and paints her toenails. Flashbacks fill us in on his oft-stormy
relationship with Laura, who was as moody and unstable in her way as
One morning Joey’s car is stolen. He’s left to
aimlessly wander until unexpectedly happening upon the abandoned car,
which still contains Laura’s corpse.
Joey resumes his East Coast odyssey, sleeping in sleazy
motel rooms as Laura’s corpse steadily decomposes. He ends up hauling
Laura across a beach in West Virginia, where he finally lies down beside
the body and shoots himself.
You’ll know from the start of this film, in which
lovers frolic while Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee” is read on the
soundtrack, whether DEAD LEAVES is for you. It contains a deeply morbid,
squalid air reminiscent of gross-out opuses like
DARKNESS or NEKROMANTIK, but it’s also arty and affected to a
fault (as elucidated in the opening credits, intercut with photos of
Poe, Charles Baudelaire, Antonin Artaud, etc).
The “action” is relentlessly slow and uneventful,
favoring contemplative pans across ugly industrial landscapes and
lengthy scenes of the protagonist brooding on park benches, watching TV
in hotel rooms, driving in circles, etc. The point, I suppose, is to
dramatize Joey’s inner torment and hopelessness, although I can’t help
but feel that Constantin Werner was simply padding his running time--and
anyway, after a while the film comes to feel like a travelogue, and an
extremely boring one at that.
Red Lion Tamarin Production/Cult Epics
Director: /Producer/Screenwriter: Constantin Werner
Cinematography: Mindaugas Blaudziunas
Editing: Scott Cookson
Cast: Haim Abramsky, Elizabeth Gondek, Ken Cypert, Christopher Medina,