SXSW FILM 2010
By Dirk Sonniksen | March 13, 2010
Director: Svante Tidholm
Director Svante Tidholm takes us inside the largest brothel in Europe, a garish, eleven story building located in the picturesque city of Cologne, Germany. Here you’ll find 200 women providing sexual pleasure for 700 men a day. Each floor offers a different theme: one floor Asian, another transsexuals, and the eleventh, a rooftop lined with beds for mass orgies. Men visit Pascha when they need a release from the daily hum-drum of their lives, a quick sexual fix that for some is but a fleeting moment of pleasure. But do they really find any kind of long-term satisfaction, or do these fantasies simply serve as a way to compound existing problems in their lives?
Like a Pascha is a fascinating examination of what drives men to seek out sexual pleasure through prostitutes. Men come from all over the globe, many on business trips, visiting Pascha to satisfy desires they cannot fulfill at home. The film begs the question of what can be gained by such an experience, and what kind of disconnect these men have in the real world that brings them to such a place. Are these men simply fulfilling natural, primal desires or are they furthering a system that berates and exploits women? In a sense, the men that frequent Pascha are put under the microscope more so than the women who work there, making the point that the habits of men are the main cause of prostitution, something that often seems overlooked.
In addition, Tidholm probes the emotions of one of the brothels residents, Sonia, a prostitute from Romania. Sonia describes her profession at first as somewhat of a necessity, a kind of playground for men who would otherwise wreak havoc on the streets were they not provided the safe haven of Pascha to pursue their sexual pastimes. But as Sonia’s conversations become more introspective, one begins to feel that she is anything but content, and that perhaps the emotions and sexual exploits of these men are taking more of a toll on her than her previous life in Romania, which according to Sonia, was anything but ordinary.
What makes Like a Pascha such a an interesting documentary is its depiction of prostitution in a completely different light than that of the United States. With Las Vegas often being in the spotlight, we are often presented with a rather upbeat version of the oldest profession in the world, a kind wild west mentality that is accepted in a place of extreme decadence. This kind of acceptance seems to be hard to come by at Pascha. No matter how Pascha tries to present itself, it ultimately comes off as a rather seedy spot nestled among the historical surroundings of Cologne.
Like a Pascha is a film that pulls you into a place that for many is very distant. The tales of the men and women that reside in the world of Pascha are thought-provoking and often heart-breaking. Tidholm hits a home run here, and the fact that the film is considered controversial is strange. It seems as though it being labeled controversial is simply because it touches on a subject that many seem to want to ignore, particularly its exploration into the thought-processes of the men who frequent Pascha and other brothels around the globe.