Cannibalism is, to make light of it, perhaps the silliest of all taboos. There is something absurd about the thought of eating another person. At one moment, they are an intelligent and well-spoken peer, full of thoughts and emotions, and the next, they are mixed into your morning waffles. Does anyone else giggle at that cognitive dissonance, or am I just a sick weirdo?
However funny it may be, cannibalism has always dwelt at the fringes of our imaginations, usually in extreme horror movies or in the yellowed pages wicked old EC comics. It’s a fascinating taboo to contemplate, and we return to the notion again and again throughout history — (and throughout the pages of Blumhouse). Few actual people — according to anthropologists — have been known to regularly perform ritual cannibalism. One known notable tribe to have actually done so was the Wari’ tribe, a nomadic people of Brazil, who reportedly feed on the bodies of their dead as a form of respect. It’s not like the feasts from, say, THE GREEN INFERNO or CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, but it is known to happen.
The Wari’ were also, back in 2010, the central inspiration for a restaurant in Berlin called Filmé that was, according to its pre-opening press release, the first ever cannibal restaurant.
Filmé drew a good deal of attention in the European press in 2010 when it opened up a (now defunct) website featuring a special questionnaire asking clients about their medical history, their body mass index, their pregnancy history, and what kind of physical shape they were in. The function of this survey was to find appropriate donors who were seeking to donate their own bodies to the restaurant’s kitchens. Yes, Filmé was, according to this survey, weeding out people… to serve to other people.
Details of the recipes were not included, sadly, so we can only conjecture what types of bodies they were seeking for what kinds of meals. Seeing as how little experience professional chefs probably have with preparing human flesh, it’s difficult to imagine what sort of people would actually make for the best meals. Although it’s likely that athletes would probably make for the best meat.
Filmé was also, according to its survey, seeking skilled surgeons to serve as the restaurant’s butchers. The idea, then, would be that someone would die, their body would be taken to the restaurant, and a doctor would then remove the appropriate parts for preparation. The parts would then go to the chef, and they would — à la CHOPPED — have to come up with a recipe based on whatever parts they were presented with. They weren’t to euthanize or murder anyone, but simply — and respectfully — make use of donated bodies.
Although a little grim, the wording on the website was contemplative and pragmatic. “We see feasting as a spiritual act,” it said, “in which spirit and strength of the consumed creature is given to the guests.” Whether or not this credo was taken directly from the language of the Wari’ is debatable at best, but it does seem like a workable mission statement. For cannibals.
As soon as the website went up, it immediately drew fire from local politicians and journalists. It was such an outrageous idea, that it just had to be addressed. Der Spiegel reported that it was likely some sort of prank or PR stunt, the source of which they couldn’t suss out. Local politicians were outraged and Michael Braun, the deputy floor leader for the conservative Christian Democrats in the Berlin state parliament had to go on record after receiving a flood of e-mails on the topic.
Braun said that the restaurant was a sick joke, likely spoofing the well-known 2001 German news story of the man who sold his own body to a cannibal. You likely recall the tale of Armin Meiwes, the cannibal who sought a volunteer to be eaten, found one, and spent several months slowly carving up and eating his victim. At the time of his arrest, Meiwes had eaten about 44 pounds of human meat. That’s about 176 Royales with cheese. (Meiwes, by the way, was sentenced to life in prison.)
Only about a week and a half went by, however, before Filmé was revealed to be — perhaps obviously — a hoax. As The Telegraph reported (hilariously, in their Food & Drink section), a German vegetarian society called Vebu had arranged the website as a satire of the way humans so casually think about the consumption of meat. Carnivores, they theorized, look at menus too often, thinking nothing of the slaughter of cows, pigs, chickens, lambs, goats, crocodile, rabbits, and any number of animals. To shake the public out of their meat-based complacency, they decided to put humans in the place of their animal brethren, revealing how gross meat was in general.
The Vebu spokesperson, a man named Sebastian Zösch, was quoted as saying “Vebu wants to draw attention to all of us who are affected by the worldwide consumption of meat.” The Filmé website was taken down in early September of 2010 with the following Vebu statement put up in its place:
Consuming human meat is an explosive issue. But nobody poses the question where meat which is consumed daily comes from, under which circumstances it is produced and what consequences it has on our environment.”
This sort of prank is always welcome, in this writer’s eye. It often takes something shocking to make people stand up and take notice, and a clever prank, revealing the cracks in a political or social construct, can be one of the most effective forms of protest. The world can always use tricksters who encourage at least a little anarchy.
Unfortunately, the prank — in this case, anyway — was much bigger than the message. More people remember that there actually was a Berlin cannibal restaurant (if anyone remembers it at all) than they do Vebu or its extreme messages of vegetarianism.
So, I am sorry to report, there was no Filmé restaurant… and, if you were morbidly curious, you cannot go to a remote restaurant in Germany to try out human steak. We have yet to reach levels of societal hunger (or upper-crust decadence) where a cannibal restaurant would be openly accepted by, well, anyone.
But just for a second, you thought it was possible… didn’t you?