Dominik Graf: Hotte im Paradies (D 2002)


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Dominik Graf: Hotte im Paradies (D 2002)


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Dominik Graf: Hotte im Paradies (Hotte in Paradise; D 2002)
Review by Ekkehard Knörer

German Film Review


Director Info

Dominik Graf makes movies for TV that are bigger than TV, but in his case this might be not a problem at all. It seems that his films work best as movies made for TV, TV as movies. This is because of the hackneyed stories he and his writers certainly twist and turn - without the intention, however, of turning them into art. Or rather, it is an art that turns its back to TV. This movement of turning its back remains important, though, as a gesture, a gesture that works best at the place it turns away from: TV. Dominik Graf's art is an art of transcending TV by means of using it, of reproducing it in a radically transformed way. It remains recognizable in the stories, the motives - not the emotions, though. Where TV usually likes to be comforting Graf's films are cruel and alienating.  He has made movies for the big screen, to be sure, but in the last ten years (and these are the years in which he has become a truly unique director) his two attempts -  Die Sieger and A map of the Human Heart  - were terrible flops, not with critics but commercially. Which is a pity mostly for foreign audiences, as for them it is virtually impossible to get hold of the films of one of German's finest directors.


Hotte and his three women go boating, they laugh, they swim, they joke: that's Hotte's paradise. And, of course, a blatant lie. Hotte is the pimp who exploits his women and the fact that he is a rather fair and nice pimp does not change this truth a bit. The relation of Hotte and his women is based on nothing but money and the phantasmagoric illusions it can buy. But buying these illusions is never enough: you also have to believe in them and here is where the film - and it's title - and we the spectators are clearly and without a doubt on the side of irony, and a bitter one at that. Money, we learn, is more central than sex to prostitution. Or maybe it's just that this film is interested more in the economy of sex as prostitution than the humiliations it entails; they go - with a notable exception towards the end - without much saying and showing.

What you can buy is respect in your peer group; its symbols are as hackneyed and ridiculous as you might expect: watches don't show the time but the amount of money you make; the signs have to be obvious: the pimp is as respectable as the car he can buy. In a wonderful scene we see the rich pimps running to their convertibles closing their roofs in the rain; Hotte can't afford a convertible, so he's a minor player in this game (later the situation has changed; it's a ridiculously obvious code). The central place in which the fetish of money is most graphically on display is the makeshift casino. Money, Hotte says, is nothing, it's colorful paper. Which is, of course, the opposite of truth. Money is the god that has to be immolated with a gesture of neglect, even despise in order to be established as the only god in this paradise.

Love in this game is just a word. As an act it would mean the end of the economy of prostitution. Hotte's act of love in the end will bring about his downfall. He gives freedom without taking anything for it. You can leave this circle of hell - that's what we have learned before - with the usual means of this slave economy: you can buy your way out. Love, within the system, is nothing but a word and a bait to get women in. That's what we learn when Hotte lures another woman into his little paradise. There is no place for sentiment here. There is no place for tragedy here. Everything very clearly, very simply follows nothing but the logic of money. What remains is a yearning, a desire to escape, a hope for redemption. It cannot amount to much within the world of prostitution.

Dominik Graf, who is often on the romantic (and/or at least: the excessive) side of things, this time prefers sober digital images contrasted only a few times by a look from above, onto the streets of Berlin at night. In "A Map of the Human Heart" - which is in many respects a counterpiece to "Hotte in Paradise" - Graf demonstrates the suggestive emotional, even metaphysical potential of digital images as well as a voice-over narrator. Here nothing is left of this potential, nothing at all. Hotte, as the voice-over narrator, speaks with a Berlin accent (as do all the others). It works as a marker of the profanity everything in this film is confined to. A market world in which money (and women which are just another form of money) and a money-based respect are exchanged with a brutality that needs no disguise. A world of base respects of thrift, but none of love. Hotte's paradise is - and without any sentimentality is shown as - a circle of hell.

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