dispatch: sxsw

At Europe’s Oldest Brothel, Everyone Likes Hookers. Don’t You?

Queerty-spondent, Daniel Villarreal, is covering the SXSW Film Festival. Here’s his review of a documentary about Europe’s oldest brothel.

If you think that cruising sites like Manhunt.com are destroying gay culture, imagine the effect of Europe’s oldest, most popular brothel. Pascha, in Cologne, welcomes guests for 5 euros. Some 500 men pay up each day to enter the 11-story venue, choose from over 150 women (1st floor, quickies; 4th floor, Asians; 7th floor, transsexuals; top floor, an orgiastic sun deck with a BBQ pit and a jacuzzi). But for all the high-fiving talk of a brothel might encourage, film director Dominika Daubenbuchel Svante Tidholm doesn’t belive clients leave feeling Like A Pascha (that is, like a king). Rather their sexual high is a short-lived fantasy, and an ultimately dehumanizing experience for both the hooker and hookee.

His film focuses mainly on Sonia, a voluptuous brunette prostitute at Pascha who’s ashamed of her job. She feels that sex work is the only way to save money for an education and eventually a family. Through a series of intimate scenes with her at the zoo, a restaurant, and in front of her laptop, viewers sense Sonia’s deep sadness and stunted emotional growth. She’s like the animals on display, served up as easily as a plate of noodles, and nostalgic for her younger, slimmer self. She was raped seven times before entering the world’s oldest profession. Since then, very little has changed.

Daubenbuchel says he wanted to examine the brothel because he thought it was an odd place outside the normal world. But as he interviews the brothel owners and male patrons who presume that paying for sex is a right, he begins to wonder whether he’s not the odd one out. He thinks the men who come to Pascha aren’t satisfied with a blowjob or an orgasm—they actually long for something deeper. He spends the film examining that, by exploring his own feelings about the brothel.

A telling scene comes when a Pascha manager tells Daubenbuchel not to shoot their descent into the squalid basement. Pascha is a business and behind its dreamworld appearance—where fat old men in masks can gangbang transsexuals, where steak tartar comes in the shape of a titty-fucking, and where you can play slots next to a porn filming—lies issues that none of the patrons or owners want to examine too closely. Even Pascha’s owner won’t say why he couldn’t be a prostitute himself—it’s too personal.

Some of Sonia’s men cry in her arms and some of her customers ask what’s wrong when she doesn’t seem like herself. They’ll never really know. The emotional intimacy they actually crave is too messy and unstable to sustain a good business.

RATING: Four out of five jellicle cats. At only an hour, this beautifully shot documentary with a likable narrator-hero would make an ideal stay-at-home evening followed by cabernet-fueled conversation.

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  • Ogre Magi

    Sounds a bit moralistic

  • nikko

    prostitution is wrong and disgusting, period.

  • J

    @nikko: I think someone’s a bit bitter. No Johns for you?

    There’s no problem with prostitution. If Governments regulated it, it would free jail space and could lower the tax citizens pay to house & feed protitutes in jail. They could get them off the streets by providing a place for this to go down, much like the building in the article. The women wouldn’t be beaten or killed by their pimps for not having brought in x-amount of $, hell there’d be no need for Pimps anymore. The govn’t could mandate HIV/STD testing for the girls. Force the use of condoms with the johns or face strict $ penalties…
    The reasons just go on and on and on.

    If you’re a magic pixie believer….wasn’t jesus’ mother a whore? So what…good for him, not for you?

    Get off your moral high-horse. Some people don’t share in the same Moral rightious dilusional views as you. Sometimes, some people have to do what they HAVE to do to stay alive, fed, housed, clothed, and yes…sometimes insured. Plus, there is OBVIOUSLY a market for this kind of stuff if it already exists and is a big dollar industry. It’s already semi-legal in NV I believe, and I don’t think they have such a hard time with it (I don’t live there, so that is just opinion). But because you don’t like what they do, doesn’t mean you should have any input in THEIR life decisions anymore then you would expect their input to have any weight on yours.

    You’re either to rightious to realize society shouldn’t get to decide who gets to do what in their own life (IE: Same-Sex Marriage), or you’re quite the bitter jilted X who’s partner (male/female/gay/straight) was caught paying for something you couldn’t/didn’t want to/wouldn’t provide them.

  • J

    *Sorry, not jesus’ mother. HIS WIFE!

  • donkeytrot69

    I don’t think the film is discussing whether or not brothels are a good social idea, I think he’s focused purely on the effects it has on it’s workers. Sonia in the film says that brothels may keep rapists off the streets by giving them a place to work out their sexual frustrations… but that also implies that they’ll just come in and pay to furiously fuck her instead.

    I don’t think that the film’s not out to make a political stand. It’s more one man’s exploration and wrestling with his emotions about what can legitimately be a depressing industry, no matter the social benefits.

  • donkeytrot69

    Oops, I meant to say that “the film’s NOT out to make a political stand.” Thanks.

  • Cam

    It’s weird, he seems to have started with a premise and then was determined to prove it, rather than film and let the chips fall where they might as far as the patrons attitudes. It seems like he should have focused on more than one of the prostitutes as well for a larger sampling.

  • nikko

    Spare me the bullshit, J. selling yourself for sex is degrading, male or female. Surely some morals are grounded in truth and are not delusional for all gays are they?

  • valstarl

    @nikko: @J:


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