Saila - A film by Julia Ostertagsaila    credits    about j.o.    trailer    making of    mail/dvd    press   main
Written      directed      shot      edited by Julia Ostertag      2006 - 2008      95 min.

 Subculture and emotional delusion: Julia Ostertag and Sexuality - splatting image 12/08 lenzl4

Visual atmospheres in vacant factories outside Berlin: Sex, death, and power games. With her recent film SAILA (2008), director Julia Ostertag presents kind of an erotic experimental film shot in squatter and punk milieu. The whole thing is set in the future. State power is faltering. Anarchists are pressing on - the world out-of order, so to say. Emotional crises - not only on a political level but also in interpersonal relations between beat-up men and a woman called Saila (Kathryn Fischer) who gets sexually involved in a world that is out of joint. Psychic and physical catastrophes are looming. Complex topics, if you will, that in the person of Saila escalate to a destructive, bloody climax. In her previous film SEXJUNKIE (2003), Julia Ostertag had been pushing boundaries  in a Bataillean sense before: Love, sex, lunacy, and the loneliness of the human existence on its quest for perpetual satisfaction that on the other hand has to be overcome somehow.

In both films the visual plays an important part and thus, hardly anyone ever talks in her recent film: no banal words but aesthetic images of bodies, fluids and concreted industrial landscapes through which the cold wind blows. What cannot be expressed in words can maybe be captured on film. Both above mentioned films are among other things about sexuality but not about the sticky-funny sexuality of, alas!, so many commercial hump flicks - no - we are here confronted with the dark sides of lust. The human being’s biggest sexual organ is its brain - where obviously everything starts and ends. Julia Ostertag has made two films about sexuality and emotions and where SEXJUNKIE was decidedly explicit, SAILA leaves many blank spaces for the viewer to fill with her imagination.

An interview with the filmmaker allows insights into her agenda... :

We wanted to talk about the ‚non-explicit’ in your recent film, didn’t we?

One could say that this film is a sequel to Sexjunkie - as regards style, that is, being fascinated by old industry and shooting without permission and, as to the actors, transgressive shooting. They had to transgress some boundaries. And, of course, the dark facet of eroticism that the film sticks to. In that context you have to consider that the film’s main idea was the man eater and all that happens around her - the gangs and punks - has evolved somehow. That is, a sort of story where there is no law or order but where it is absolutely common that people disappear and men are killed without anyone showing any interest in it a wasteland populated by outlaws.

.. with a lot of blood but no explicit sex scenes

I had no concept of this boundary between explicit or non-explicit because I approach my films from my own inner level and there are no obligatory technical standards like in porn movies. This explicit cinematic level, indeed, has to be constructed and then has to tune up or stand up in the literal sense. That is, you need actors who want it like that. But while writing the script I had the possibility to further engage myself in porn films - to the extent that I accepted a job at a porn production company.

Oh, well?

Yes, as a cinematographer

Did you do that to fund your film?

Among others

an experimental art film funded by means of the porn industry, then?

(laughs) That would be great - pornography is not as commercial as you may wish. To make a living out of it I would have had to work so much that the other film could never have been made you understand?

above, a new experience for you?

VI have, of course, always been interested in the subbject because, in my diploma work and in Sexjunkie, there have regularly been these ‚pornographic pitch points’. Accordingly, I took that as research. A kind of researcher in the matter of pornography. And I have to say that, in the course, I got fed up with the explicit.

as early as on the first day?

No, it took half a year (laughs) And at that time my own project had reached the point where I had to make final decisions, also, with the actors: What do I want, actually? In Saila, there are set-ups that would have allowed for explicit acts. My non-monogamous heroine had an open mind about it. We could, indeed, have discussed that. But - due to mainstream pornography - I came to the point where I had that feeling that it would do harm to my film - not in a moral but in an aesthetic sense.


Because the problem is that as soon as something explicit looms the film will be reduced to that. This is what happened to Richard Kern and his cinema of transgression. For instance, the Lydia Lunch performance - that implicates so much but is now reduced to her having that gun stuck into her ass.

A breach of taboo then?

This is 2008 and we can no longer claim that presenting a genial to the camera is a breach of taboo. But suddenly people react like it was and talk about nothing but these scenes.

like for instance about Short Bus

Yes, exactly, and my decision was: I don’t want that - I want my film to be preceived at large as an atmospheric piece of work.

Sexjunkie on the other hand comes in pretty explicit. I guess that lies in the film’s nature?

One could say that I made a kind of journey. Sexjunkie that was shot in 2003 is the starting point and my idea was to find out in what way it is possible to make explicit images that dispose of their own individual aesthetic and are in contrast with mainstream porns. And it was about solitude and how it drives people to keep on making sexual contacts.

Which is a volte-face of your current stance.

What upset me back then was that as soon as sex came in there was a blinding or a cut - I’m not talking about porn now but feature films. Or in art films - they treat sexuality with sort of a funny aestheticism that, actually, is more concerned with censorship or still getting an R-rating

In Sexjunkie you’re outright acting yourself - don’t you?

I wanted to connect the explicit with sex I, personally, found aesthetic and the the experiment ended in my having to act myself because, back then, I was living the more prudish city of Hanover and was not able to find adequate actors. Most of those who would have been willing had already been contaminated by porn and conformed to the porn cliché - that again was not what I wanted. I wanted to shoot really dirty scenes - that is, wallowing about in an old industiral building and not asking oneself whether what you lie on is asbestos

Have you ever been watching porns?

I’m not your regular porn consumer. I am an artist and don’t feel like wasting my time and sexual imagination with watching stuff like that. I think that, at root, pornography is mocking that solitude we’ve been talking about and sexuality, in general. For me there is something much deeper in the background

From you point of view - what is the problem about commercial pornography?

The problem is that it is not revolutionary because the people who decide what comes into the market are not interested in revolutions - neither as regards contents nor aesthetics. There are these standards - how many chapters have and how much explicit sex has to be included and then it all comes out as something that I would describe as mechanical. All that in and out and also the close ups are obligatory I have a very intellectual approach and pornos tend to be extremely banal.

which means you deem the whole project doomed to failure.

I’ve been watching alternative porn films at Jürgen Brüning’s Porn Film Festival and the only thing that’s different are the introductions - in part, they are really nice and you settle back and enjoy it. But that’s only the first five minutes and the remaining fifteen minutes of a chapter don’t differ at all except for maybe those few tattoos - that, I think, are not exactly alternative or revolutionary.

In your films, sex implies something destructive - doesn’t it?

My first film was called Love Cuts and was shot on Super 8. That was my application for the HBK Bruswick and it shows me masturbationg and cutting myself. Actually, they accepted me for this film (laughs) and these are elements that also appear in my latest film Saila. Sex is shown as something with a lot of self-destructive aspects.

at what were back at the Cinema of Transgression tradition

At that time I didn’t know about that. I had seen the films of Richard Kern or, better, the films of Lydia Lunch - because I actually think that they are her films. She also displays this connection of self-destruction, self-aggrandisement, and sexuality. But then there are all these other female protagonists like Marina Abramowicz, Birgit Hein, Kathy Acker, Maria Beatty, Carolee Schneemann and that’s when I found out that I was part of this tradition just by instinct without having researched

With your projects, what is your creative approach?

Basically, it’s a self-research experiment that has been expanded with my new film. I didn’t want to act in it myself - I’m not an actor anyway. Accordingly, I was looking for characters that are as close as possible to that idea and allow for projecting my own fantasies on them and make them act them out.

and you found actors who were willing to participate.

I knew that Kathryn Fischer (Saila), a Berlin performance artist was willing to transgress boundaries because that is what she does in her performances.

Eventually, the question I love to ask: Art and pornography - do they get along?

I think the problem is that heads, apparently, allow less space for a subcultural, revolutionary attitude and that subculture, in a politically correct delusion, rejects pornography. That’s something I noticed when I was at art school - that you’re being pigeon-holed, that is, treated with hostility or oddly sexualized at the very moment you take your artistic stand on it. I do think that art and pornography can get along - but the niche is so small that the respective products don’t sell. That is why curators and other interested parties now have to dig out that stuff and drag it to daylight - because you won’t find them in commercial porns. That’s what I learned in the porn business - that such films can’t be found as a regular DVD in the adult video store.  » back