Without A Soul
The documentary film on which the film Mandragora was based. Boy hustlers in Prague face the camera and tell their stories.
One of the most appalling things about this film (among many) is that some of these boys subsequently appeared in Mandragora. Itís a line between reality and fiction that is very difficult to watch being crossed.
Most of the film details the boysí involvement with a porno filmmaker in Prague. Itís almost impossible to capture in words how revolting this man is. Heís the Childcatcher from your worst nightmares. Working as a morgue technician (he calls himself a pathologist), he lures desperate boys to his apartment to make them perform unprotected sexual acts for his, mainly, German audience.† Shots of him performing an autopsy are cut with shots of him filming the boys. The dialogue is interchangeable between the two brutal acts. At least in the morgue his victims are dead. (You really donít want to be eating when you watch this film Ė I had to watch blocking out the lower half of the screen).
Condoms are forbidden, as the audience for his movies want to see bareback sex. The boys dismiss the fear of AIDS. They have to work, so thereís not much point them being afraid. One boy filmed was already infected. In their tiny world they all have sex with each other for these films, so there seems little chance of others not becoming infected.
Iím not sure that this documentary made me feel guilty about the sex industry. That would be like condemning all alcohol because some people canít control their drinking. Certainly the sex-tourist industry in cities like Prague is deplorable, but the question has to be asked, what would these boys do without it? Presumably they would turn to crimes of another kind and their lives would be equally short and brutal. I felt more angry about the economic situation in this former Eastern-Block country, that forces young men to be in such a desperate state that they sell the only commodity they have worth trading.†
I would recommend that you see both this one and Mandragora as a package. One illuminates the other in the darkest way.
Not exactly a light eveningís entertainment, but recommended.
When Polish director, Wiktor Grodecki, made Mandragora, he adapted this real life documentary, made earlier in the 90s, about young hustlers in Prague and the adult sex industry that exploits them. Grodecki interviews boys aged from about 14-18 years old, who tell how they sell their bodies to survive.† Then they get lured by the promise of greater rewards into the seedy world of gay porn.† One of the boys he talks to plays main character, Marek, and others feature, in Mandragora.
I wonít lie to you.† It is an unrelentingly bleak and depressing film not recommended unless youíre prepared to be shocked, horrified and moved to tears.† It filled me with deep despair-and guilt, sitting in a comfortable living room with my teen-age children safe and sound upstairs.† Then anger that such things go on today.† Itís positively Dickensian- well, if heíd been able to publish† novels overtly featuring male prostitution and pornography.
The first part of the film focuses on the boys.† Different in appearance, attractive or not, yet with the same dead eyes, they talk direct to the camera.† Shots are close into their faces, looking into their eyes as though trying to reveal the soul within.† But, as one boy tells us, heís nothing but a body for sale, without a soul.† Seemingly street smart, they explain that in exchange for money tricks get their needs attended to, a business transaction..† Itís heartbreaking how they donít see their bodies have any value except as objects to satisfy the sexual needs of adult males, many affluent sex tourists, who pay to own them for a while.† Lost boys without hope, you know by their bad skin and body movements they take drugs, often from pimps, so they need more cash to feed their habit.†
The film gets really, seriously disturbing, when we meet Pavel Rousek who moonlights as a porn director from his daytime job as a pathologist.† Rousek talks about how he gathers boys together in groups to feature in cheapínínasty porn movies made for the German video market.† For pathetically small sums, these boys agree to do anything asked of them, including unprotected anal intercourse.† If they change their minds he beats them into submission. Morgue scenes are most effectively intercut with the shooting of one of his porn movies.† We see Pavel enthusiastically cut up a corpse, in graphic detail.† I had to look away. As Pavel chats, he gets jumpy and agitated, telling how he carries screenplays in his head.† The films are shot in his home, with family about.† The boys are given alcohol and drugs (and, when available, sex aids) to loosen them up.†
As a consumer of m/m porn, this film made me uncomfortable. Iíve always regarded gay porn as unexploitative- the guys sure look as if theyíre having a blast, at least in the kind of features we watch/review here.† The films Pavel makes are joyless affairs, with boys reluctant and scared.† Pavel tells them sex isnít for their pleasure, neither can they wear condoms because the German market doesnít like it.† Theyíre just pieces of meat, like the bodies he dissects.† The boys think they can separate their bodies from their souls, that theyíre not touched inside their heads.† But theyíre wrong. They get taken apart by what they do, just like Pavel rips into the body on the slab- and he is well covered up against contamination.
I was emotionally drained by this film.† It is not easy to watch.† Rousek is a seriously sick man who should be locked up.† However, he appears still to be making his nasty movies so there you are. I would certainly think twice before watching any porn coming from former Eastern Bloc countries.† Iíd hate to be in any way complicit in the degradation and exploitation of vulnerable, tragic boys, whose lives are full of sex but totally lacking love and affection.† Watch and weep.
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