A staple of the Berlin festival, Rosa von Praunheim’s stylised brand of filmmaking has never held him back when it comes to difficult subjects. His latest feature, Tough Love, is no different, capturing the challenging and often distressing life of Andreas Marquardt in a campy dramatisation intercut with interviews from Marquardt himself.
Prostitution, molestation and karate are the defining acts of Marquardt’s life, although the harrowing experiences of his formative years and his natural talent for martial arts soon take a back seat to his career as a pimp. Informed by his awful experiences with his mentally ill mother, a career in the sex trade suits the lowly opinion of the fairer sex to a T.
Beyond simple exaggeration, even farcical, Praunhiem’s frequent dramatisations are of a very specific era. The film is set in the 1970s and 80s; the filmmaking of this period seems infinitely more sophisticated than the stagy, simplistic black and white vignettes that make up the core of the film.
Along with this theme, characters are universal stereotypes. John’s are overweight figures of fun, while the shifty characters who accost Marquardt into a life of crime wear gold chains and speak in low tones in empty changing rooms. There’s a purposeful disconnect between style and subject, as though the film is daring the viewer to take its content frivolously.
Tough Love itself is comfortable with its own artifice, despite the generally well composed documentary pieces that intercut it. The melodrama and stereotypes are joined by scenery that’s literally projected onto the walls, but in the modern age of documentary filmmaking, it never quite gels with sober subject material. The story itself is an interesting one and the brief relationships Marquardt creates are utterly compelling, if only for their unique abnormalities. His loving wife – who also features in the talking head interviews – has a unique view of her perilous situation, while his mother is presented as utterly malicious and little attention is given to her underlying psychosis.
It’s tempting to not view Tough Love with a critical eye. It’s very nature as a retelling of true events compounded by low budget production values makes it more reconstruction than cinema. But Prauheim’s stylistic approach is distinctly melodramatic and as a result the film ultimately fails to unite form and function.
Joe Manners Lewis
Tough Love does not yet have a UK release date.
Read more of our reviews and interviews from the festival here.
For further information about Berlin Film Festival 2015 visit here.