Jan 18, 2015

False Light

For a fat goofy dude who did not exactly seem like he would be a superstar stud in the bedroom, assassinated Dutch auteur Theo van Gogh (Interview, 06/05 aka May 6th) was extremely preoccupied with sex, love, eroticism, and tragic romances, as if he lived vicariously through the forsaken femme-fatale-fucking characters of his films. Of course, as the director once famously stated in regard to his eruditely erotic ‘phone sex romance’ 06 aka 1-900 (1994): “I don't like messages that much. I prefer covering the war between a woman and a man.” Van Gogh must have been on the losing side of a perennial total war of love because during the shooting of his flick Vals licht (1993) aka False Light, as his then-wife decided to cheat on him with the star of the film, Ellik Bargaï, who is not exactly the most charming nor handsome of men, though I guess he was a bit thinner and younger than the director at the time, plus stupid people tend to care more about actors than directors, as if films somehow make themselves. In fact, van Gogh, who even had a sense of humor when Islamist were threatening to kill him, alludes to this exceedingly embarrassing fact in the film in a semi-cryptic fashion during a scene where the following message is broadcasted at a railway station: “Mr. Bargaï, please contact Mrs. Van Gogh.” While van Gogh was cuckolded on his film, his embarrassment and naivety is nothing compared to that of the protagonist of False Light, who absurdly thinks he can tame a pathologically whorish Swedish hooker and self-destructive ‘fallen woman’ with shady underworld connections and turn her into a respectable monogamous woman who does not feel the need to sell her flesh and soul for a few shekels. Based on the 1991 “AKO literatuurprijs”-winning novel of the same name written by Dutch modern novelist Joost Zwagerman, van Gogh’s ostensibly wild and wanton flick but ultimately culturally cynical and even misanthropic anti-romance about a charmingly wicked woman unequivocally demonstrates that there is no hope for whores or the men that moronically love them, as it is fairly common knowledge that lying, thieving, and scheming sluts that are so dead inside that they are willing to routinely sell themselves to strange men can never be changed, let alone be transformed into nurturing mothers or marriage material.  As the great Austrian Jewish philosopher Otto Weininger recognized, the ‘prostitute’ is more of a mindset than a profession.  False Light is also a work that indubitably demonstrates that despite their well known ‘liberal’ attitudes towards prostitution, among other things, the Dutch do not exactly have much empathy for so-called ‘sex workers,’ though van Gogh seemed to have more sympathy for them than most Dutchmen as a subversive outsider that was able to understand a fellow group of outsiders, but of course that does not mean he fails to portray pussy-peddlers in a less than glamorous light, for no sane person could come away from the film thinking it is reasonable to date a woman who has about as much as respect for her own naughty bits as a toilet. Indeed, like many of his works, van Gogh’s Zwagerman adaptation demonstrations why he was once called, “Fassbinder of the Low Countries,” as the auteur had an understanding of the warped female psyche that few filmmakers, especially heterosexual ones, can boast, hence another reason why he would probably be hated by Islamist goatfuckers and liberal hysterics. 

 Simon Prins (Ellik Bargaï) is a 21-year-old college student from Amsterdam who suffers the curse of having a hopelessly banal and seemingly sexless girlfriend of the relatively homely sort named Antoinette, so he spends a good portion of his time voyeuristically gazing at a strikingly statuesque yet forlorn-looking prostitute (Swedish actress Amanda Ooms of Carl-Gustav Nykvist’s The Women on the Roof (1989) and Jan Troell’s Everlasting Moments (2008)) at the apartment building across from his in a Rear Window-esque fashion via a telescope. Like most young men, Simon is obsessed with sex and naturally offends his academic girlfriend by remarking, “They saw whores love doing it with Alsatians. They’re faithful. But a Rottweiler licks better,” thus causing his little lady to leave abruptly without even saying “I love you” back to her loving beau. When his brazenly bitchy girlfriend rudely leaves without even giving him so much as a second-rate hand-job, would-be-sex-fiend Simon gets the gall to approach the prostitute in building across from his, though he has no idea that this random meeting will ultimately plunge him into an unpredictable labyrinthine erotic nightmare of delusional love, lies, criminality, cocaine, violence, murder, and, of course, steamy sex. The prostitute says her name is ‘Janice’ and Simon, who tells her his name is ‘Eric,’ absurdly attempts to show off his literary prowess as a Dutch major by bringing up popular novelist Willem Frederik Hermans, but the lecherous lady of the night has no clue who the writer is. Somewhat strangely, Simon impresses Janice by just paying to see her half-naked body and not actually having sex with her like most her Johns, thus letting the seemingly amiable hooker know that he is a so-called ‘nice guy’ who can probably be easily manipulated by an attractive woman. Janice is Swedish and she tells Simon that she decided to come to Holland because, “The Swedish think me too bony,” as if the Dutch and the Swedes are not two of the most racially similar peoples in the world, especially when it comes to height and weight.  After paying to see Janice’s not-too-large tits, Simon leaves, but he decides to go back to the prostitute after noticing two criminal-like fellows going into her building and then leaving abruptly, as if they have just done something that they do not want to get caught doing. As it turns out, the two degenerate dudes smacked Janice around a little bit and Simon decides he is going to ‘save her for from herself,’ even telling her, “I come to save you” and then pretentiously reciting the quote from Dutch poet and classicist J.H. Leopold, “In this Love, Death shall be but sleep peaceful sleep. Waiting for you, be but waiting,” to which she somewhat humorously replies to by crying and saying, “I’m so dumb.” Simon also absurdly says to the  professional pussy-peddler, “to me you’re not a whore,” thus making her realize that he is the perfect cuckold and a ‘mark’ that she will use and abuse for her own conniving conspiratorial ends.

 As it turns out, Janice does not actually live across from Simon, but is merely using the apartment as a special place to sell her gash for cash.  As it also turns out, the aggressive hooker’s real name is not ‘Janice,’ but Lizzie Rosenfeld—a rather Jew-y sounding name—and she lives in a rather lavish apartment with a giant aquarium containing large exotic sea turtles. Before he knows it, Simon finds himself spending all his time at Lizzie’s flat where he eventually meets her coke-addled ex-boyfriend Wesley (popular Dutch actor Thom Hoffman, who starred in van Gogh’s directorial debut Lüger (1982)), who he mistakes for a pimp after the debauched ‘cool guy’ offers him some nose candy upon introducing himself.  Wesley makes his living as a photographer who, among other things, takes pornographic photographs of unclad ditzy dames in wheelchairs spreading their legs and striking intentionally retarded-looking poses.  Needless to say, jealous Simon is not too happy when Wesley threatens him by stating in a preposterous illeist fashion regarding Lizzie, “Take good care of her or Wesley will be angry.” Of course, Lizzie is a femme fatale and she does not believe that she needs to be protected by any man, bragging to Simon regarding her curious career choice, “I’ll say it just once. I’m not ashamed of what I do. I’m not on drugs, I have no AIDS and I have no pimp.” Naturally, being a pathological liar, Lizzie later somewhat contradicts herself by claiming that she originally became a prostitute to support her and her then-husband’s lavish lifestyle of exotic vacations and cocaine addiction. Being a jealous little boy, Simon decides to track down Lizzie’s ex-husband Jasper, who tells him that “Lizzie is bad news” and denies that his ex-wife ever had a drug problem, stating, “Lizzie is only addicted to one thing…herself.” When a gangster-like fellow named Philip (Tom Jansen of van Gogh’s Return to Oegstgeest (1987) and Loos (1989)) randomly shows up at Lizzie’s apartment when she is not there, he decides to make a statement by having his goons dangle Simon out of a window by his feet while sardonically stating, “They say that dying is as nice as coming. At least when you’re hung. Seems to give you a hard-on.” Needless to say, Simon is not too happy about being almost killed and confronts Lizzie about it, so she tells him an extravagant bullshit story about how Philip is an ex-John who has been threatening her ever since she lost a suitcase of his that he told her to hold at one point. Indeed, apparently Lizzie mindlessly gave the suitcase in question to someone that claimed to be Philip’s friend and when Philip found out, he decided to brutally beat the prostitute's then-boyfriend Wesley, hence why he left her.  Naturally, since Simon is Lizzie's new swain, he will now also serve as Philip's new punching-bag.

 After almost being dropped from three stories by Lizzie’s ex-John, Simon decides to dump her, but not before hatefully stating to her, “You’re a bitch. You’ve known they [Philip and his goons] were coming all this time. You’re lying. Junkies always lie. You’re just a common whore. How could I ever have thought you weren’t. You can’t even have an orgasm.” When Lizzie subsequently moves away, Simon cannot handle it and soon begins obsessively searching for her, ultimately finding her at a high-class whorehouse in the South Holland city of Hague where the two make passionate love, though the protagonist pays(!), and somehow the seemingly emotionally dead prostitute even manages to have a real orgasm, thus hinting that she might actually slightly love her cuckolded beau. Due to the fact that Philip and his thugs are looking for them, the two loony lovebirds decide to runaway together, but when Lizzie makes the mistake of going to her ex-boyfriend’s apartment to pickup her stuff, Wesley forces Simon to fuck the prostitute in the ass at knifepoint. Seemingly unphased by being forced into performing spontaneous sodomy in front of a knife-wielding lunatic, Simon subsequently takes Lizzie to meet his parents at a fancy restaurant and his sleazy father (Cas Enklaar of van Gogh’s Een dagje naar het strand (1984) aka A Day at the Beach) immediately begins hitting on and feeling up his son’s girlfriend, who naturally lies and tells her beau's proud progenitor's that she works as a nurse instead of a call-girl. After the dinner date with daddy and mommy, Simon takes his girlfriend to a college party and Lizzie intentionally insults her boy toy’s ex-girlfriend Antoinette by asking her, “what is it like to be a virgin at your age?,” thus demonstrating her absurd sense of jealousy despite being a chick her makes her living selling her body to strange dirty old men. Needless to say, Simon gets in a fight when one of his friends reminds him that his girlfriend is a hooker. After the pansy brawl, Lizzie thanks Simon for defending her, but he gets rather agitated and hysterically screams “You’re lying!!!” like an agitated little cuck. Ultimately, Simon gets Lizzie to quit whoring and attempts the seemingly impossible by making her a sort of domesticated “kept woman,” but with Philip and his goons still looking for them, the two decide to escape to France. When Simon asks his father for money for the trip, he replies by telling his son that he knows Lizzie is a hooker by remarking that he “knows the type.” Somewhat irked but determined to get money to fund his and his girlfriend's getaway, Simon strategically asks his father if he was one of Lizzie’s customers, which the old man does not deny, and then makes a rather dramatic attempt at begging for money by absurdly arguing, “If you paid for her then, why not now?,” but big daddy refuses to pay because, after all, he is not getting any pussy out of it. Eventually, Lizzie’s hooker negress friend double-crosses her and tells Philip about her and Simon’s whereabouts, so the two go on the run and spend a good amount of time hiding in a museum. In the end, while Simon does his girlfriend’s dirty work by ‘confronting’ Philip and his pals in a hysterical storm of bullets that results in a shattered turtle aquarium and the discovery of about half a dozen or so large bags of cocaine, Lizzie strategically avoids the violence by flying to Cannes. After countless pointless deaths and lethal lies, Simon finally realizes that Lizzie’s love for him was a fantasy and delusion and he ultimately gives up on their relationship, though it is quite clear that he still loves the conniving cunt despite everything that has happened. Of course, lethally lecherous whore Lizzie gets what she wants in the end and does not even break a single nail in the process. 

 While not exactly Theo van Gogh’s greatest film about a deluded dude that falls under the spell of a career slut, False Light is certainly a sort of underrated classic of decadent yet strangely aesthetically dignified Dutch neo-noir. Indeed, like with van Gogh’s somewhat superior and certainly more idiosyncratic work Loos, the film puts the Hollywood erotic-thrillers of blockbuster screenwriter Joe Eszterhas to shame in terms of mere subversiveness and gall, especially in regard to its insights about the less savory and more unscrupulous members of the so-called fairer sex. The fact that van Gogh’s then-wife cheated on him during the production of False Light with lead Ellik Bargaï only add to the film’s perverse potency in terms of its dissection of the darker elements of the ‘feminine mystique.’ In its depiction of a compulsively scheming, conniving, and lying whore who has nil interest in children and plays men like chess pieces to get what she wants, van Gogh’s politically incorrect Dutch take on film noir more or less cinematically depicts Austrian philosopher Otto Weininger theory of the ‘prostitute archetype’ in a way that can be easily understood by the layman. Personally, I have never found the sort of woman that downs a dozen dicks a day that appealing, no matter how delectable her body may be and I certainly would have no desire to attempt to ‘save’ such a less than fresh and overtly unsalvageable woman, so van Gogh’s film ultimately offered me an experience that I would never want to have otherwise in a fairly ‘safe’ sort of way that did not involve potential hazards like herpes or vengeful dope-dealers. While women get into prostitution for various reasons ranging from poverty to social awkwardness to sexual enslavement, it certainly takes a special kind of women who does it because she genuinely wants to as False Light so devilishly demonstrates. To go back to Weininger again, he once wrote, “Great men have always preferred women of the prostitute type.” Of course, that statement says just as much about men as women.  Indeed, van Gogh's film may feature an uniquely unflattering depiction of a certain kind of woman, but it also contains a provocative portrayal of various sorts of men who, despite their differences, all mindlessly fall prey to the same exact thing: pussy.  As for Mr. van Gogh, one can only wonder whether or not it was worth it to him lose his wife as a result of directing False Light, but then again, as the film demonstrates, no man can control the whimsical essence of women.

-Ty E

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