A hat stand, a disreputable-looking pink brocade sofa, a selection of excerpts from an Austrian erotic novel, published anonymously in 1906. And men, a hundred of them, aged between 16 and 99, who have responded to an open casting for the latest film by Ruth Beckermann, a project which is based on the controversial and salacious book, Josefine Mutzenbacher or The Story of a Viennese Whore. What the men don’t initially realise is that the audition process – they are asked to read and engage with chunks of explicitly sexual literature – will become the film itself. In a sly role reversal, the lens is trained on men – squirming, preening, performing – on Beckermann’s overstuffed casting couch, while, off camera, she scrutinises and interrogates. It’s a playful and revealing device, and the film, which won the prize for Best Picture in the Encounters section of the Berlin Film Festival, unpeels ever deeper and often darker male sexual secrets and admissions like a Russian doll.
Wendy Ide, Screen Daily
In Mutzenbacher, one of the more curious Encounters at the 72nd Berlin International Film Festival, renowned Austrian documentarian Ruth Beckermann digs out one of the more scandalous literary works from her native country (or indeed any country) from the last century and checks it off against contemporary moral(ism)s. Enlisting a group of men of various ages, she has them share their reflections on the matter at hand. No women are ever in view, but they are certainly talked about.
Jan Lumholdt, Cineuropa
Content warning: child abuse