SLAMDANCE 2020 DOCUMENTARY FILM REVIEW! Isolation takes many forms. Most can recognize how professions, lifestyles, and external circumstances shape our families, social circles, and ideas of self-worth. Few are willing to consider or impart concern for our fringed social elements, which can foster bitterness, hopelessness, and desperation. Prostitution is the world’s oldest profession, enduring millennia as a lightning rod for firebrand debates on the merits, morality, and legality of sexual work. However, Elke Margarete Lehrenkrauss turns the lens toward a woefully under-explored segment of the discussion, providing a starkly dangerous and crushingly lonely portrait in Lovemobil.
Over the course of two years, Lehrenkrauss and her small crew documented the ruses, fears, hopes, and tragedies of several women working as prostitutes on a lonely stretch of highway in rural Germany — out of mobile trailers. Lacking many basic amenities, most notably running water, these women are almost wholly confined to their trailers (unless they have multiple jobs outside of this one) and wait for hours on end for any possible customer. When customers do come around, many cannot see these women as people, but as objects, they are paying to use and abuse. All the while, the pimps who own the trailers charge exuberant daily rates and hound the women to sell themselves more, which locks the residents in a perpetual cycle of extortion and borderline homelessness.
“…the ruses, fears, hopes, and tragedies of several women working as prostitutes on a lonely stretch of highway in rural Germany…”
However, this doesn’t begin to scratch the surface at the existential themes at play in this documentary, which are constructed artfully with a heavy emphasis on cinéma vérité parameters. Sequences are observed so close to these women, their social circle, their clientele, and their pimps, that I was often wondering how such access was achieved during such wildly personal moments. This is further compounded by Christoph Rohrscheidt’s haunting cinematography, augmenting the sweeping nothingness surrounding these women — another kind of solitary confinement. The intense color of the vibrant neon lights stretching across the many windows of these lovemobils in the pitch darkness gives the environment an otherworldly quality, which further hammers down the utter isolation. The musical score crafted by Dascha Dauenhauer utilizes melodic vibes that I would expect more in a Chan-wook Park thriller than I would in a documentary, and it succeeds on almost every noticeable level to elicit emotions of unease and trepidation. Lehrenkrauss’s editing is what ties the whole project together, constructing a ruminating slow burn through the day-to-day goings of these women, their reactions to hearing colleagues hurt or murdered, and the indifference of the larger world continually passing through.
While a difficult movie to absorb for its subject matter and unflinching perspective, it is a powerhouse of raw cinema, little to which can offer much competition or comparison. This experience sparked deep melancholy, silent anger, and a whole host of other emotions, but it predominantly impressed upon me as a profoundly empathetic film made with extraordinary care. Lovemobil is an observational documentary at its core, flanked by an intoxicating atmosphere and highly contemplative editorial sense, and provides this year with one of its most formidable docs.
Lovemobil screened at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.