Aug 9, 2014
As far as I know, I Am My Own Woman (1992) aka Ich bin meine eigene Frau directed by aberrosexual agitpropagandist and all-around gay agitator Rosa von Praunheim (Die Bettwurst, A Virus Knows No Morals) is the only biographical film ever made about the life and times of an East German tranny. Additionally, it is also probably the only Brechtian docudrama ever made about a tranny, be they German or otherwise, thus making it seem like a film that would only appeal to a bourgeois art fag in art school, yet it also happens to be one of von Praunheim's most mature, if not patently propagandistic, works as a rather sentimental work from a rather unsentimental and very scatological kind of guy. Based on the 1992 autobiography of the same name by Charlotte von Mahlsdorf (born Lothar Berfelde), who survived both the Nazis and Stasis and appears as ‘herself’ in the film, Praunheim’s decadent yet perversely dignified PBS-esque quasi-documentary depicts the stranger-than-fiction story of a born-tranny who, among other things, killed his National Socialist leader father with a wooden stirring stick(!), was almost raped by hordes of semi-Asiatic Soviet soldiers after being mistaken for a woman, became the man-muse of a degenerate Prussian aristocrat, opened up a popular phony antique museum full of factory-made everyday items, was awarded with the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, and somehow managed to find a very special place in two different authoritarian worlds where men in dresses are more than just a little bit frowned about. Taking a rather bizarre and meta-reflexive approach to the documentary format as a sort of documentary/docudrama/narrative film hybrid of the pathologically Brechtian sort, I Am My Own Woman not only features two actors portraying the subject during ‘her’ younger years, but also Charlotte von Mahlsdorf him/herself, who constantly interrupts scenes of episodes from her exceedingly eccentric life to explain, among other things, how they are exact reproductions of what happened in his/her real-life. A hermetic history of homo kraut underground and beyond, Praunheim's critically revered doc demonstrates that the malignant debauchery of the Weimar era was not merely an isolated phenomenon of Teutonic history, as sexual degeneracy in the Fatherland has always existed, albeit it was mostly regulated to the underworld in the past. Centering around a seemingly benign but ultimately mischievous and semi-psychopathic creature who passive-aggressively got what s/he wanted whenever she wanted just like so many other calm and calculating women, von Praunheim’s film is interesting in that it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that von Mahlsdorf had an innately bourgeois broad brain and was not simply some sexually confused wack-job like Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs (1991). While just as patently perverted as the director’s previous works in many different ways, I Am My Own Woman marked the beginning of a more serious, sentimental, and controlled von Praunheim who had unofficially taken on the job of being Germany’s foremost gay anthropologist, ethnologist, and documentarian. A bizarre Oedipal tale where the subject literally kills his father, but instead of wanting to make love to his mother, he wanted to be her instead, I Am My Own Woman is a work that has to be seen to be believed (and, indeed, it is certainly hard to believe some of von Mahlsdorf’s curious anecdotes, as they read more like a Teutonic tranny The Twilight Zone than historical fact).
As Charlotte von Mahlsdorf states at the beginning of the film, “My life’s ideal is the Gründerzeit period (1880-1900) and I’ve made my dream come true. For over 30 years my furniture collection has been housed here at my Gründerzeit Museum in Mahlsdorf. I live here like a woman at the turn of the century.” Von Mahlsdorf attributes his/her obsession with the Gründerzeit era to her beloved anti-Nazi granduncle whose house s/he was born in. As someone who confesses that, “Even as a child I liked to dust and clean,” it should be no surprise that von Mahlsdorf got her first job at an antique shop in 1942 while still just a teenage boy (as portrayed by Jens Taschner). A self-described “transvestite,” von Mahlsdorf found solace in staying with his aunt, who was a transsexual bull-dyke who had no problem walking around in public wearing men’s clothing during the Nazi era. Ultimately, von Mahlsdorf became aware that he was not the only man who felt like a woman when his aunt introduced him to Jewish sexologist Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld’s book The Transvestites aka Die Transvestiten, which he read religiously when not being buggered by a hyper horny stable boy. While von Mahlsdorf found much love and support in his Sapphic aunt and granduncle (who warned him of “brown-shirted criminals” like his father), he faced virtual hell-on-earth at his family home in the form of his Nazi leader Papi (Utz Krause), who the protagonist describes as “absolute evil” and who whipped his son’s bare ass in a homoerotic fashion for playing with dolls. When von Mahlsdorf’s father gave him the ultimatum that he either chose between him or his mother, the momma's boy decided to take decisive action and brutally beat his father to death with a wooden stirring tool and, as a result of his actions, he was sent to Tubingen for a psychiatric examination by a certain Doctor Ritter and ultimately sentenced to four year in a reformatory in 1945. Luckily for the twink tranny, Nazi Germany was losing a war, so he managed to get out of the reformatory early, though he faced much danger while walking around the destroyed streets of Berlin, which were being bombed by Soviet dive bombers and stalked by hardcore National Socialists who were looking to lynch traitors and deserters. In fact, Von Mahlsdorf was also almost executed for being a supposed deserter, but a Nazi officer saved his life at the very last minute. Needless to say, as a child of war, von Mahlsdorf had to grow up fast. In other words, he had to be his 'own woman' and like most desperate women, he used his body to advance his sorry lot in life.
When not dodging the advances of Red Army rapists (during one scene in the film, a Russian goes to rape him, but cries, “Impossible! German women have cocks!” after lifting his dress and getting a nice little surprise), von Mahlsdorf (as depicted by von Praunheim dude-diva Ichgola Androgyn) was helping delivering pigs at a swine farm and giving transvestite balls at Friedrichsfelde Castle, which was in a state of disrepair before the Teutonic tranny helped fix things up in 1946. Apparently, the “crème de la crème of the Prussian aristocracy” held tranny balls at the castle over a century before von Mahlsdorf ever showed up, thus proving that Prussia always had its own esoteric poof world. Eventually, von Mahlsdorf became the extra loyal ‘servant girl’ and sex object of a rather rotund WWI officer named Herbert von Zitzenau (Robert Dietl) in a relationship that would span about a decade until the debauched aristocrat predicted his own death in 1957 after entering a hospital and ultimately subsequently succumbing to a fatal heart attack. As the no-bullshit transvestite states regarding her innate attraction to fat old farts, “I’ve always been erotically drawn to older men. It’s the same for me as many women: one feels protected.” From von Zitzenau, von Mahlsdorf learned much about homosexual history during the Kaiser’s time, as well as a series of S&M-style sexual role-playing games he would later use with his “Lebensmensch” Jochen (Rainer Luhn), who he met in a public restroom. Mahlsdorf’s relationship with Jochen lasted for 27 years until the latter’s death in 1987. In 1959, Mahlsdorf began what he would be best remembered for by opening a Gründerzeit era museum at a 200 year house called 'Mahlsdorf' manor, hence his pseudonymous aristocratic name. Of course, the Stasi attempted to takeover von Mahlsdorf's business and by 1974 it got so bad that he began giving away his antiques to friends, lest they fall into cold commie hands, but in the end s/he persevered and won her personal war against the bolshevik beast.
In the late 1980s, von Mahlsdorf hired two bull-dykes to help him run his museum and one of them describes how she, “almost choked to death laughing” upon meeting the elderly tranny. As Mahlsdorf describes, “like all women in East Germany who turned 60, I got my pension and was able to visit the West for the first time in many years,” but being the year 1988, the transvestite would be saddened to discover that all except one of her former lovers that lived in the West were already dead. During the late-1970s, von Mahlsdorf starred in various East German movies and TV shows in small bit roles as transvestites, but her proudest accomplishment was starring in the first (and ultimately last) gay East German film, Coming Out (1989) directed by cult auteur Heiner Carow, who is best known for his work The Legend of Paul and Paula (1973) aka Die Legende von Paul und Paula. As von Mahlsdorf states, “The 9th of November, 1989, was not only the premier for the film COMING OUT, it was also the day of “coming out” for all of East Germany.” Indeed, the Berlin Wall finally opened up so that East Germans could freely travel to the west and vice versa without being molested by Stasi guards. Of course, with capitalism eventually hitting the Stalinized East, von Mahlsdorf found herself unable to pay the bills and had to sell many of her precious antiques which, as s/he states herself, were irreplaceable. Indeed, rather ironically, after 30 years resisting the Stasi, the ostensibly democratic German government managed to annex her Gründerzeit Museum. On top of that, a group of 70 or so neo-nazis crashed von Mahlsdorft’s “First gay-lesbian spring party for East and West since the Wall” and beat up all her friends, including women, without scruple. In the end, von Mahlsdorf tries to establish a link between the old National Socialist regime and gutter-dwelling neo-Nazi skinheads, as if they are at all comparable in any meaningful way. Of course, von Mahlsdorf is a simple-minded person and sees anti-gay as anti-gay and nothing more.
At the very end of I Am My Own Woman, Charlotte von Mahlsdorf declares while warmly smiling while in the company of her best friends, “I am a totally happy person.” Unquestionably, I believe her as von Mahlsdorf seems like a rather happy-go-lucky person throughout the film, but I found some parts about her story to be somewhat dubious as all the pieces of the tale fit together a little bit too perfectly. Indeed, despite there being a scene in the film where the teenage von Mahlsdorf is asked by a doctor why he hasn’t joined the Hitler Youth and s/he responds, “Because it doesn’t interest me,” in real-life he was indeed once a member of the Hitler Youth and joined the group in 1942 just like all boys his age did at that time (after all, it was the law and the boys had no choice, so it is odd that von Praunheim would lie about this). To von Mahlsdorf’s credit, s/he was not the good little politically correct type who meekly cowered to the truly fascistic dogma of the LGBT crowd, as s/he caused a controversy that lost her many supporters at a Berlin lecture on 12 March 1997 after remarking: “That lesbians and gays can't have children is after all quite natural. Nature too seeks out what it can use, what can reproduce and what can't. If we look at it like that, if lesbians and gays did have children, then we'd have a lot more unemployed people today.” Undoubtedly, if I learned anything from watching I Am My Own Woman, it is that gays and even transvestites always have a special and important place in society, even if they live in a culture that is purportedly homophobic. Additionally, as von Mahlsdorf’s relationship with WWI officer Herbert von Zitzenau proves, homosexuality was more or less openly accepted in Germany among even the Prussian aristocracy, which certainly is at odds with the mainstream cultural Marxist narrative that Germany is a historically homo-hating and fag-bashing nation. Of course, I Am My Own Woman is not the only documentary that von Praunheim has made about a transvestite, as he later directed a 50-minute film entitled Der rosa Riese (2008) aka The Pink Giant about tranny rapist serial killer Wolfgang Schmidt (now known as Beate Schmidt) aka “The Beast of Beelitz” aka “Pink Giant” who sexually abused and murdered 5 women between the ages of 34 to 66 years old and even killed a 3 month old baby by slamming it against a tree stump. Indeed, by comparing the subjects of I Am My Own Woman and The Pink Giant, it becomes quite apparent that transvestites come in various shapes and forms, with some being sweet old ladies like Mrs. Doubtfire and others being murderous psychos like Buffalo Bill. Of course, the gay mainstream wants you to believe all old transvestites are like von Mahlsdorf and Mrs. Doubtfire. As I Am My Own Woman reveals, you do not need the Pink Gestapo to be your own woman if you're a transvestite.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 3:11 AM
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