In the past couple of years, women’s words have fallen on a more attentive ear. And during this time, what has become of men? Ruth Beckermann auditions one hundred men on a rococo sofa, proposing that they read, comment on and even act out excerpts from a pornographic novel in which Josefine Mutzenbacher recounts her sex life starting from early childhood. The text, delivered in fragments, is ambiguous: is it an ode to the strength of an individual who sublimated her own predation, or else a fantasy representation intended to minimise criminal acts? Detecting that this ambiguity offers fertile ground, Ruth Beckermann confronts the participants with the anonymous text out of a genuine sense of curiosity: what can such an anachronistic text inspire today? The hundred men in the casting, which is already a shoot, adopt very diverse approaches. Some appear to overdo their ease with the sulphurous material, while others handle it with their fingertips as if at risk of dirtying themselves. A third category, visibly unsettled by the filmmaker’s project, remains guarded, trying to detect what is expected of them in order to better adapt. As she divides the participants into groups, the filmmaker multiplies the points of friction: the reactions of some feed those of others – a symptom of the reflexivity that now governs any public utterances. Episodically, individuals melt into a crowd: Ruth Beckermann gathers them into a choir that she directs, and the powerful unison of voices reminds us that men rather than women still wield power today.
Ruth Beckermann is a filmmaker and author based in Vienna. Her films include The Paper Bridge, East of War and American Passages. In 2014 her film Those Who Go Those Who Stay received the big documentary film prize at the Diagonale in Graz. Two years later The Dreamed Ones was also honored there as best feature film. The Waldheim waltz received several awards, including the Glashütte Prize for best documentary film at the Berlinale 2018, as well as an Oscar nomination. In 2019 Ruth Beckermann realized the installation Joyful Joyce for the Salzburg Festival.