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A film by Ich Bin Niemand
4:3 aspect, 92 minutes
--Review by Thomas S. Roche © 2007 by Eros-Zine (Reproduced with permission.)

"Slaves is a hybrid film, but what it's a hybrid of is a source of spirited argument. Some people love it. Some people absolutely hate it. But as it is engineered to be challenging to the audience... surprise!

"Slaves is presented as dead-dry fact, a straightforward documentary-style investigation of the artist, R.C. Hörsch, who keeps a stable of female slaves in an abusive and dysfunctional cult-like "family." Conversations with Hörsch and with the film's producer, S.E. Stokowski, more or less confirm that "Ich Bin Niemand"(German for "I am no one") is a thinly disguised pseudonym for Hörsch himself and that he is, in fact, the author of the film. Stokowski also states that the film was made by Horsch with the seven women as collaborators, mostly photographing each other without benefit of a crew of any kind, and inventing the scenes and dialog as they went along. How much of what is presented is true and how much is fiction is a matter for debate. But, as the name of the production company,Cinema Menteur, is French for "cinema that lies," little should be taken at face value.

"So, if not actual documentary fact, what is it really?
"I'll tell you: one part Spinal Tap-style mockumentary, two parts rampantly perverted porn movie, three parts B-movie horror, and twelve parts ingenious hoax. However much you might question the filmmaker's motives, mode of expression, or physical attractiveness (he ain't Robert Redford), Slaves is not like any other flick and for that reason alone I give it lots of props. It's a pervy playtime for serious sickos with the intention of creating a comment on sex, death, intimacy, hatred, misogyny, insecurity, danger and pain. What seems to have escaped a lot of folks is that the comment intended is at once dead serious and hilariously satiric; to me, it's so darkly funny that it left me feeling creepy for about ten days, and giggling frequently during most of the 2,780 showers I took during that period.

"Slaves is so creepy and bizarre that if it does not short-circuit your brain on some level, I'm not sure you have one. As an absolute fanatic for weird psychosexual horror films, I gotta put this one right up there with Scanners and Videodrome."

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A journey deep inside the cult-like world of extreme sadomasochism and bondage as told by seven women and their master...

(Introduction from the book, Slaves by R.C. Hörsch et al, upon which the film is based.)

The following journal was written by seven women (the “slaves” of the title) who seek out and voluntarily remain in an ostensibly abusive, dysfunctional, emotional and sexual relationship with a sociopathic artist. The different voices speak from deep within a distant corner of the sadomasochistic world that exists far beyond mere fetishes and role playing. In this cult-like world, sex is extreme, often violent, and people sometimes die. What you are about to read is graphic, emotional and sexually explicit. It contains disturbing depictions and descriptions of sadomasochism, bondage, vampirism, extreme sex, physical and emotional abuse, blood sacrifice, exhibitionism, addiction, degradation, maniacal artistic compulsion and other controversial themes.

However, it is not fiction. Each of the voices belongs to a real person: Xyla is a nubile, fragile, dangerously vulnerable eighteen year old with a cascade of auburn curls, pierced nostril and pouty lower lip who is attempting to buy love with her total submission; Samantha is a willowy lifestyle submissive ex-junkie, ex prostitute and ex-novice nun seeking punishment for real and imagined sins; Lorelei is a pretty, sexually repressed, masochistic performance artist and exotic dancer with a poetic soul seeking to get in touch with her dark side; Rachel is a gorgeous adrenaline junky and thrill seeker after the ultimate orgasm; Ruth is an agoraphobic philosopher content with her small, “manageable” world of total submission clinging desperately to the status quo; Maya is a bespectacled twenty year old lesbian college student with major daddy issues; and Cecilia is a seventeen year old newcomer waiting her induction into this strange world. Each describes her entanglement with an obsessive artist who considers his egotistical artistic “compulsions” to be license for his sadistic quest for the “perfect” subservient being.

It is also not pornography. It contains too much soul-searching and heartfelt emotion and those seeking only sexual arousal or prurient titillation are likely to be disappointed. But most of all, it is not a simple one-dimensional story of good and evil, of abuser and abused, of predator and prey or even of master and slave. The slaves all write fearlessly, frankly and often critically of their master and come across as articulate, mostly confident and autonomous women who make their own decisions, including their choice of the collar and whip. Each seeks out and endures differing forms of pain, abuse and degradation for her own personal reasons. But the most unsettling point of all is that each endures her abuse willingly and of her own volition because each carries with her the key to her own shackles and her cell door is never locked! Each could leave at any time but chooses not to. In the end, little is really as it seems and the distinction between abuser and abused and master and slave is thoroughly blurred.

--Naomi X. Harris, PhD


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