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Meeting the ‘golden girls’ of prostitution

Kristen Allen · 16 Feb 2010, 18:55

Published: 16 Feb 2010 18:55 GMT+01:00

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The tender film “Frauenzimmer,” which has the English title “Silver Girls,” focuses on three Berlin women in their autumn years working in what turns out to a surprisingly ordinary profession from which they gain happiness and fulfilment.

On Monday night, 28-year-old director Saara Aila Waasner was on hand to witness the enthusiastic applause that followed her first feature-length film’s debut only a week after receiving her diploma from film school.

“Respect! It was wonderful. You didn’t betray them,” one of several cross-dressers in the audience stood to say.

“We’ve been totally overwhelmed that the public has reacted so positively to this film,” Waasner told The Local on Tuesday. “It was a good experience for the two protagonists who were able to be there to witness this - a validation for them and the reward for our work.”

The film begins with 59-year-old Christel, a quirky woman who works from her home and tells the camera that there is a “considerable demand for older women.” After a lifelong struggle with manic depression and medication that killed her sex drive, Christel made a radical therapy change, discovered her physicality and became a prostitute ten years ago.

“Now I enjoy sex like a 20-year-old, when before it was always just a service I provided my husband,” she says.

The second subject, 49-year-old Paula, heads a bordello in Berlin’s Reinickendorf district. She tells the camera that she has sold sex for almost 30 years since she was a young woman growing up in what was then communist East Germany.

“When you’ve worked once as a prostitute then you’ll be a prostitute your whole life,” Paula tells the camera. “I don’t know anyone who has managed to quit completely.”

Finally there is 64-year-old dominatrix Karolina, shown answering her phone with the words, “Hello, slave,” as she arranges a client meeting. Sixteen years ago she gave up her 25-year marriage and job to take up whips and chains in a Berlin S&M studio.

While all of the women discuss their human vulnerabilities and some incredible struggles in their past, they view their unconventional career choices in a positive light and feel no need for apologies.

“I’d never seen any television or film work that shows women working of their own free will that have a family life,” Waasner told The Local. “It interested me to see what impact it had, how their families deal with it, and the real people behind the job.”

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She admitted the sex industry was responsible for terrible crimes against women forced into prostitution around the world. “But it’s not the theme of this film,” she said.

Waasner’s approach has an intimate but respectful feel, showing the women, their working spaces, and their imperfect and ageing bodies, without judgment.

“I think it is important to show a body that is not so wrinkle-free anymore, and these women are beautiful despite that,” she told The Local. “And their beauty really comes from the fact that they are happy with themselves.”

Kristen Allen (kristen.allen@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

19:50 February 16, 2010 by tollermann
Brother....no wonder the German film industry is not the envy of the world!
23:17 February 16, 2010 by Fredfeldman
You have to laugh, prostitution as a respectable middle age alternative lifestyle . Only the germans could espouse selling your body as a viable career choice.
10:06 February 17, 2010 by dbert4
I have no problem with the subject, good for Frau Waasner. Better an honest prostitute than a government contractor!
14:28 February 17, 2010 by William Thirteen
drat, another film i missed at the Berlinale!
17:06 February 18, 2010 by jim4diyeurope
Mr Fredfeldman -

There are professional full time and part time prostitutes in your home town, especially if you live the "Bible Belt" of the U.S. At least the Germans are open and honest about it. The truth is prostitution is a career choice of necessity for many women - and men. If you can't find a job, how are you going to feed and house yourself? Or your family? Don't be a hypocrite and deny prostitution exists right under your nose. If you don't like prostitution, then don't frequent prostitutes. Just don't pretend it doesn't exist everywhere and at all times.
18:39 February 20, 2010 by Fredfeldman
I'm far from denying that prostitution exists but making a film portraying a lifestyle that victimizes so many women "in a postive light" is something else entirely.
14:58 February 23, 2010 by dbert4
Yes and you of course, resistance portraying a long list of other in a, "postive light" such as gays, single mothers, drug users and anyone other than your self-rightous American self. Go HOME!!
22:14 October 25, 2010 by sgtbilly
Speaking on behalf of American, and after living in Germany (Bad Toelz and Berchtesgaden) and studying photography at the Universataet of Muenchen, I can only say we Americans should not judge our neighbors. In any given town here in the USA, you can find more then a handful of women that practice prostitution. Nevada allows it. But the other 49 States cannot stop it. And so it goes on...and on...So what do you have? A wild free for all of women (of all ages young to old) turning tricks and passing out sexually transmitted diseases all while doing the nasty for $$.

For most of Europe, the women are governed by laws and health insurance. Even some have 401k plans and it is a career choice, and most stay in the profession even though they say they will only do it for a few years... but most usually stay...(I know I fell in love with one back in the late 70's).

I only wish we had the culture and the willingness to allow the oldest profession around to be legalized and licensed......at least there wouldn't be the amount of rape and brutal carnage there is against women in general here in the USA.

I applaud the film, I hope I can see it? I doubt however I can find it here in the USA. So if anyone knows how I can get an NTSC version please tell me!!!
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