If I can credit Monika Treut and her cunt-licking compatriot Elfi Mikesch with anything, it is – for better or worse – demanding that viewers of Seduction: The Cruel Woman participate to some degree; whether they like or not. Indeed for masochists, the film might be something approaching celluloid masturbation of sorts, and to the sadist, one might want to decapitate the lead anti-heroess for daring to be such a demanding and over domineering bitch on a high horse of hateful hedonism. A wanton and wacked witch with wild ideas that she has turned into a highly profitable and perverse full-time profession and odious obsession, lead Wanda (Mechthild Grossmann) seems like a particularly pulchritudinous woman upon superficial glance, but when she opens her cunt-biting and cock-chopping mouth, it is quite apparent that she has far from a ladylike soul, but certainly a spiteful proclivity towards sexual sadism of the distinctly Sapphic man-loathing kind. Although she has a number of lovers/admirers/employees/slaves from both respective genders, including Gregor (Udo Kier); a rather romantic dreamer who thinks he can convert a dyke to dick due to their past romantic relationship, Justine (Sheila McLaughlin); a foreign femme and torture ‘trainee’ who has yet to realize that seduction is an illusion, and Herr Maehrsch (Peter Weibel); a jerk-off journalist who discovers that he enjoys being a human toilet after falling under the mistress' spell while interviewing her for an article. Friederike – the so called “lady prime minister,” and friend and servant as Wanda calls her – is in charge of “propaganda and protocol” at the phantasmagorical S&M gallery of fascism of the flesh where both pain and pleasure are transcended for something more pathological. If all of the patently perverse players of Seduction: The Cruel Woman have something in common, it is that they are all looking to fill some sort of inner void, with their feverish fetishism being the means from which they try to appease this metaphysical hunger. Despite taking the role of fetish Führer in her temple of torture, wretched wench Wanda is indubitably the most ‘spiritually’ and emotionally vacuous of the bondage bunch as she is all but disturbingly dead inside, hence her nefarious need to dominate and destroy others, or at least what little is left of their innate humanity, goodness, and innocence. An admitted and positively proud “mysterious tyrant,” Wanda tells journalist Maehrsch (before he realizes his dream of having dykes defecate in his mouth) that, “sexuality in that way no longer interests me,” meaning she no longer has interest in natural sexual intercourse and human affection, but instead a need to dominate and, in some cases, destroy those weaker than herself for monetary profit. Of course, Wanda is not always able to maintain her sadistic stoicism, as she has a bodacious bitch attack every week (or so says her dissatisfied lover) when overwhelmed by what is left of her ‘previous self’ and having to deal with the daily needs of her attention-starved servants. Although Wanda is able to hold up her domineering front most of the time, some of her underlings are less stable, thus resulting in a violent backlash at the considerably anti-climatic conclusion of Seduction: The Cruel Woman.
Described as, “like a sexier version of Fassbinder’s The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant,” in Images in the Dark: An Encyclopedia of Gay and Lesbian Film and Video (1996) by an author displaying a bit of a proclivity towards puffery, I would still argue Seduction: The Cruel Woman is one of the best lesbian films I have ever seen (and actually sat through in its entirety) and probably the only one I have watched more than once, but I guess that does not say much as a student of Weininger and Mencken. Unlike Fassbinder’s Die Bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant aka The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant – a work featuring some of the most marvelously miserable melodrama ever brought to the silverscreen, Seduction: The Cruel Woman features a whole lot more style than substance, which is undoubtedly the film's most glaring flaw. The film originally had its world premiere at the 1985 Berlin Film Festival, to which Monika Treut remarked regarding the audience response, “That opening was like a riot. It’s still a nightmare to me, which makes it hard to recall. It was packed, sold out three days beforehand…we didn’t know what going to happen…the audience got so mad. They attacked us. Only people who hated the film talked. That was only men. They just went crazy.” Of course, I can see why most men and probably also the majority of women would hate the film, as the lead Wanda embodies every repellant, repugnant, and reprehensible trait a biological ‘woman’ could have, as the ultimate ‘anti-woman’ who, aside from being stunningly beautiful in appearance, does not feature a single trait the men looked for in the opposite sex like being humble, passive, dainty, empathetic, and sweet, thereupon making her the ultimate cinematic bull-dyke fantasy as the archetype for the intangible Über-dyke; a physical lipstick lesbo, but also with the menacing might of a cultivated carpet-muncher who is manlier than most men and has women flocking to her bed. That being said, Wanda seems like the extreme of a mad matron with a macabre case of penis envy, hence her perennial and impenetrable bitter dissatisfaction to the very end. Needless to say, it is no coincidence that Treut would go on to direct a number of films featuring female-to-male transsexuals.