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Glorious Bastards: A Berlin porn story

© ebo hill

28.05.21
Words by:

The year was 2001. The scene: Berlin, at the peak of its untamed hedonism. For ebo hill, a crew member at storied porn production company Cazzo Film, it was “a happy time full of opportunities and high hopes”. A particularly fateful opportunity emerged when the studio entrusted hill to direct a feature himself, a work he strove to make “spontaneous, carefree, and punk – like an emotional ketchup burst.”

With Bonking Berlin Bastards, hill wanted to capture the spirit of the city’s underground in all its gritty glory; the confrontational sex, the industrial club spaces, the microcosm of drag queens, punks, squatters and mohawked fetishists who populate this world and the endless thrum of techno which soundtracks their exploits. Scouting the majority of the film’s cast and creative team on the dancefloor of Berghain-progenitor Ostgut, hill imbues the film with a sense of cinéma vérité realism, turning what could have been a routine skin flick into an era-defining subcultural document.

© ebo hill

Cementing the German capital’s reputation as a sexual playground and codifying the party practices of a generation, Bastards generated a devoted cult following. And while it has never strayed too far from the discourse (a notable screening at the first Berlin Art Film Festival in 2015 featured a Rocky Horror-level of audience participation), it is now being given a bold new life with the first-ever issue of its soundtrack, fittingly released via Ostgut Ton’s sub-label A-TON – borne from the same club of the film’s origins.

In stark contrast to the self-parodical schlock which scores the vast majority of pornography, the music of Bastards was an integral part of making the project work. hill affirms how “very important” crafting the soundtrack was during production: “[I needed] musicians [who] were exactly on my wavelength. Whenever a scene was shot and edited, we met to find a song for it. Some were even made spontaneously in the rehearsal room while I was present.”

© ebo hill

“You don’t have a lot of parties that have this family connection anymore. It used to feel like group therapy. Group therapy with a bar and a dancefloor. And a fuck room”
– Hanno

Just as he found his stars while out partying, hill approached his chief musical collaborators after seeing them play at Ostgut. For improvisational techno outfit AeoX, hill was all but a total stranger. “We were playing a gig, and afterwards ebo just came up and asked if we could imagine working for a film that he was making,” recalls AeoX’s Hanno. “It was difficult for us to find gigs anywhere, or to get a following, so we just went with it.”

“The best thing you can do as a musician is to make music for a movie,” adds AeoX’s Alex. “Everybody wants to make a soundtrack. So we immediately said, ‘Of course.’ We wanted to be rich and famous!”

While some of the selected music was pre-arranged, AeoX recalled long hours poring over the film’s footage to compose material organically. “We have seen the movie like 100 times… more than 100 times,” laughs Alex.

© ebo hill

Even more challenging than umpteen viewings of intense rutting was the fact that those doing the rutting were personal acquaintances. “We knew all the people [in the film] from going out on the weekend because they worked at Ostgut,” Hanno giggles. “So on the weekends, they would give us our beer and work the bar. And for six weeks we watched them fuck the shit out of each other [in the editing room]. It was so weird.”

“But it was a challenge,” Alex reflects. “I saw that ebo was really serious with this project. It was a real statement, what the time was like in the clubs, what the music was. And of course, we wanted to nail it. We had a lot of expectations on ourselves.”

“It was a real statement, what the time was like in the clubs, what the music was”
– Alex

The film’s score is compulsively danceable (Denksport is a party unto itself), but as Rouage/CNM notes, it wasn’t exactly comparable to what she and the other musicians on the project would have been playing in clubs at the time. “I mostly played rough industrial, breakcore and frenchcore, sometimes IDM as well,” she says. “So many new music styles came out back then, so my impulse was a mix of everything. The pieces for the soundtrack are more like unfinished experiments.”

© ebo hill

Likewise, Bastards’ soundtrack is a smorgasbord of styles, from the gabber freakout of AeoX’s Culture Houze to Rouage’s sinister inversion of easy listening on Syrinx (in Öl). It also reflects the world of the film remarkably well; various moans and grunts of pleasure are sampled liberally, while Touch It manages to duplicate the precise sound of listening to a dancefloor from the muffled confines of a dark room. However, certain elements are inevitably lost in translation without the visual aid of the movie. A track’s sudden dissolution into a barrage of heavy metal guitar chords may seem incongruous on record, but knowing these guitars are meant to soundtrack a punk as he tears out his ear piercing and furiously masturbates while bleeding on himself is valuable context.

Said piercing-ripping barely scratches the surface of some of the depravity on display in Bastards. (I am still haunted by a scene involving a man using a public telephone as a dildo.) Its vision of an industrial fucktopia is, often, quite bleak, a reminder of how much more sanitised and organised the city has become in the years since the film’s release. “The movie doesn’t feel like the parties specifically, it’s more of a time capsule to Berlin in the late 90s,” Hanno reflects. “By early 2000, it had already begun to have party tourists. It’s not a new thing… the amount [of people] has just increased.”

© ebo hill

He continues: “It’s become so egocentric now. You don’t have a lot of parties anymore that have this family connection. It used to feel like group therapy. Group therapy with a bar and a dancefloor. And a fuck room.”

“It sounds a bit silly to always say that everything was better in the past,” Rouage adds with a grain of salt. “Of course that’s not true. But it was easier to find niches for non-commercial experiments. I would like to see more courage for rougher experiments again.”

© ebo hill

hill too mourns for the Berlin of old, keenly aware of the multitude of obstacles facing a production like Bastards if it were made today. “I believe someone could make it, but no one would do it, because porn is consumed so differently today – just short wanking-time clips. And 20 years ago there were more open, free spaces and underground locations than there are today. Looking back, we were like the landscape: in retreat, hitting an all time low.”

Few could argue that the Berlin of Bonking Berlin Bastards still exists, yet it’s comforting to assess just how little has changed. Drag queens still gather en masse to dispense with their assailants, strangers still screw in the woods, and hordes of misfits still bliss out to endless streams of techno. Berlin still means freedom, and Bastards is a glorious testament to this legacy.

Bonking Berlin Bastards is out now via A-TON

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