Berlin is known for its sexiness, its naughtiness, its underground scene, its gay scene, its music scene and for many other scenes. Director Rolf Peter Kahl (or RP Kahl as he credits himself) intends to set his Bedways in this Berliner atmosphere and pretends to present a study of sexuality in the city.
Nina Bader (Miriam Mayet) is a film director rehearsing for a movie about love and sex in an apartment in Berlin. Her two stars explore with her the possibilities of physical contact and boundaries of love.
With this premise as an excuse, Kahl strips all of his actors in explicit sex scenes to try to convey an intimate portrait about an emotional conflicted artist. The problem is, as I say in the first paragraph, that by pretending to make this film a study of sexuality, the film turns exactly into that, a pretentious goalless masturbatory film. And it is masturbatory in a literal and figurative way, since there is a ten minute long masturbation scene which doesn´t really add anything significant to the plot of the movie, but it presents in itself a very interesting scene with a commentary on sexuality governed by technology as two people separated by a camera and a cell phone “have sex”.
This movie reminds me of Joe Swanberg´s Art History in some ways. Swanberg´s and Kahl´s films are about the filming of an extreme low budget movie about sex. Both approach the theme in an explicit and close to reality style and they both pay more attention in creating an atmosphere than devising a plot. And even if I have my problems with Swanberg´s film, his is light years more interesting as Kah´ls because of his way of directing and letting actors be.
Art History pretends nothing more than it is and it overly shows what it can. The acting is absolutely close to reality and it is all documented as if it was a gang bang party at a friend´s house. In Bedways the actors are trying to act, and they are limited by the material Kahl brings to the table. Yes the sex scenes are real, but they don´t connect at all with their characters. The film pretends to have a plot, but the narrative is halted by the interest of the director in exploiting the physicality of their actors.
The film also pretends to have Berlin as an inevitable element, but he never locates the setting. A few outdoors scenes show a street in Mitte, behind “Tacheless” but you would never get that if you´ve never been in that precise spot. And the sex club they visit has absolutely nothing in particular which would make it stand out. This film could be set anywhere in Germany but, to the film´s credit, it is through its atmosphere and aesthetics that we get this Berliner sense.
Technically the film presents its strength by handling the photography, colors and production design to create this atmosphere, although a strange choice of presenting the frame in a 4:3 aspect ratio, which is long out dated as a T.V. format, diminishes the cinematographic effect by trying to accentuate the video aesthetic, luckily at only 75 minutes running time it makes it watchable. The soundtrack is very interesting, specially the choice of MyPark for the title theme.
Kahl has an interesting concept and an interesting approach, but I feel he´s just getting the feel of it. Bedways is just his second feature and he is trained mainly as an actor, so he has a long way ahead which I´ll follow. Hopefully he gets to combine all elements of atmosphere, aesthetics, explicitness, acting and narrative development to assemble a compelling feature film.
Bedways – Germany, 2010 – Erotic, Drama – Dir.: RP Kahl – Starring Miriam Mayet, Matthias Faust, Lana Cooper, 76 min.