When is it right to fight back?
I wrote last week’s blog on the Despentes film of her book Baise-Moi, without having read the book or seen the film. That was deliberate. I didn’t want to write a criticism. I wanted to ask a question.
Since then, I watched the DVD (cut version, which saved me watching a man have a gun thrust up his rectum and then being shot), and then researched the two main actresses, Karen Bach and Raffaëla Anderson, who both came to their acting careers through porn films. There is a 30 minute interview with Anderson and Despentes on the DVD, justifying the sex-scenes in the film. Paraphrased – we all so it so why not film it? And, it wasn’t erotic so it wasn’t porn. They promise that there was no simulated sex in the film.
They are right. It isn’t erotic, but is that because we are desensitised? The film was made in 2003. I have no idea how it was viewed by the public back then.
The film plot doesn’t attempt to justify the excessive violence. The shootings seem indiscriminate. If you are male you are a legitimate target, was the maxim. That said, I lost count of the female fatalities, but they were fewer than the deceased males. I think Despentes’s answer would have been, ‘an abused woman is entitled to be indiscriminate, because all men are guilty.’
That’s pretty much the Me Too standpoint and if I were a woman I would be sticking to that, too. And the violence? Anderson said, ‘Film violence doesn’t make peaceful people violent. It just makes them more creative.’
It’s tempting, but I’m not going to argue that one!
The film is short – 73 minutes and if you take time out for introduction and credits it must be down to an hour. My point is, one could easily have given more weight to justifying the violence. Those who initially imposed a ban on the film probably thought it there for titillation and couldn’t be justified. I think more highly of Despentes and for me, that isn’t an option. I do think they missed an opportunity to explain the violence from within the film which is the best place from which to do it.
My criterion for the value of a book or film is, do I know something after viewing I didn’t know before; did viewing the film force me to think about an issue? These two were definitely met by Baise-Moi.
Bach and Anderson reveal what stunning actresses they are, despite the lack of drama-school training. The disappointment was to learn that Bach died in a drug related accident in 2005 and the English translation of baise moi is given as rape me which is deliberately incorrect and sensationalist. A correct translation – fuck me – makes more sense. Best is to use the French title, which is usual.
Where does that leave The Last Stop, my fight-back book set in Berlin?
My objective was to reveal the contradiction inherent in law-making. The more the German Bundestag tinkers with prostitution laws, the worse things become. This wasn’t the intention when various areas of the sex industry were decriminalised. Berlin now has streets of caravans with Eastern European women on the inside and German pimps guarding the door and taking the money. Thus, it seems fair to allow my protagonists in The Last Stop, the right to fight back. They also get to analyse this right – I give them the words to justify their actions – and I supply a devil’s advocate who tells them how wrong they are to resort to go for the shoot out.
How did I do.
Take a read of the following excerpt and let me know.
Jack had come to Berlin to experience the throb of a world city. Within a few hours he’d experienced death’s long tunnel and then been an accessory to murder. And he’d learned, ‘we’ve got away with it’.
Although he was still shaking and wondering how ‘we’ came to be the personal pronoun of the moment, he observed the girl was composed and tidying the broken chair bits into his empty suitcase. The only one motionless was Dmitri.
Jack knelt by the body. It wasn’t bleeding from anywhere. Disposing of a pool of blood on the hotel carpet, would have been a problem too far.
‘Is he dead?’ Maria asked.
‘How would I know? Must be! Oh I don’t know, but how can you survive blows to the head like that?’
‘He looks dead.’
There was a long pause and then a quiet calm came over Jack. He started reasoning again. ‘If he isn’t already dead, he soon will be. That beating was awesome and I’ll take some convincing it was necessary.’