Does the “perfect man” have a teenage sex slave?
Well, The Erotic Man (Det erotiske menneske) — Jørgen Leth’s portentously titled follow-up to the short film recently skewed in The Five Obstructions — will not. The Danish Film Institute quietly renewed state funding for the project last month with the provision that X-rated scenes with his 17-year-old “housekeeper” remain in Leth’s private collection.
But the Institute’s “obstruction” just might encourage Leth for the worse. In The Five Obstructions, Leth continually confounded Lars von Trier, who proposed his former instructor remake The Perfect Man five times, each with a series of constraints (such as filming in Cuba or in cartoon form.) “Not a mark has been made on you!” said von Trier of Leth’s sangfroid, as he plainly refused to “wave away [his] insecurity” or become emotionally involved in the filmmaking process.
It is an excellent documentary; however, the appearance of a (cartoon) bare-breasted black femme fatale in one variation foreshadows the dirty old man now exposed in the light of recent events. Parts of the film show Leth in Haiti, his home since 1991. In an interview with the Guardian in 2003, Leth explained that fascination with the voodoo culture attracted him to this uncanny locale — “and the women too,” he added. “The women were a major attraction for me.”
Evidently much younger women. Leth is not at all shadowy, but rather boasts of his teenage conquests. In October, the 68-year-old released his autobiography in which he tastelessly describes a neocolonialist milieu. “I take the cook’s daughter whenever I want to,” Leth wrote. “It is my right. I can have her any way I want. She takes off her clothes in ‘the master bedroom’, while her mother prepares the dinner or irons my shirts in the courtyard.” Later, he graphically details her body and their sexual encounters.
His “right” is rape; statutory obviously and sexual assault more than likely. Amidst the controversy, Socialist People’s Party’s MP Camilla Burgwald called his mansion set-up “slave-like conditions.” Meanwhile, TV2 terminated Leth’s successful contract as a Tour de France commentator. Leth was also asked to resign from his ceremonious position as Haiti’s Honorary Consul of Denmark.
But the Danish Film Institute hesitated to pass judgment. “It isn’t the first movie we end up supporting in which there is something illegal,” said DFI production manager Jørgen Ramskov in October. “We have also supported films in which people smoked hash. That is illegal. We have supported films in which people paint graffiti. That is illegal.”
DFI came to realize nonconsensual master-slave relations may have less artistic merit than spray paint and dropped the project — but only temporarily. Now, Leth can expect the full DKK 3 million fund so long as sex with minors will not be shown in his mapping of the “essence of eroticism.” Then again, his attendant may be eighteen by the time of filming (the age of consent in Denmark, qualified by “gravely abusing superior age or experience”).
Thirty years have passed since Roman Polanski vaginally and anally raped a thirteen-year-old model as she cried — and in the meantime he’s directed several films (even winning an Oscar for 2002′s The Pianist in the country he fled facing jail time.)
Certainly, Polanski and Leth are creative geniuses, but their field is a collaborative one. It speaks badly of the film industry that people are still willing to work with such vile personalities, regardless of their talent. Either way, Danish taxpayers should not be supporting a man devoted to illicit sexual activity and the objectification of women.
Joanne McNeil is a writer is Chicago, IL. Her website is joannemcneil.com.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Kaavya Ramesh
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Hadley Heath