Whores’ Glory – A Journey into A Shadow World

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Austrian director Michael Glawogger trilogy of documentaries fearlessly pondered over the inconspicuous consequences of globalization. “Whores’ Glory” (2011), the last documentary in this trilogy (“Megacities” and “Workingman’s Death”), delves into the day-to-day drama of world’s oldest profession. It demystifies all the spoon-fed fantasies about prostitution. Glawogger’s non-judgmental strolls through the red-light districts of three different nations, where the environment and culture looks different, but the woman all over roughly perform the same task.

Bangkok, Thailand; Fardipur, Bangladesh and Reynosa, Mexico are the three places, where Glawogger got access to picture the gritty rhythms of prostitution. It starts at ‘Fishtank’ in Bangkok – a glitzy brothel – where a group of scantily clad young women, uses a laser-pointer to attract their customers’ attention. The opening shots make us doubt whether this is a documentary, which deals with romantic and sentimental aspects of this profession. But, the camera soon takes a realistic approach, where the same women stop at Buddhist shrines on their morning commute. The club is sumptuously decorated, where stylish hookers sit like commodities behind a glass partition. The ever-laughing employees of the club accept credit-card payments and are very humble in treating the customers. The women live a modest middle-class life in a clean apartment and often have boyfriends to go out.

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In contrast, the young women in the dilapidated houses in Faridpur, Bangladesh suffer a harsh treatment from their pimps. “I’ll be right back,” says a young girl to her customer. “I’m going to get a condom from my mother.” Steady stream of men stroll through this containment zone, where women fight each other for customers. Most of the girls are sold after their first menstrual period and expected to live out their lives there. The third part takes place in the dusty town of Reynosa, where lewd men drive in their SUV’s, since drive-through hooking is the norm there. Many of the women are kidnapped into prostitution or held strongly with black-magic strain of Catholicism or hooked over to hard drugs.

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Religion is one of the themes that run throughout the documentary. In Bangladesh, a woman says to her daughter: “Your face is the prettiest on the whole floor. You will earn well in the future, God willing.” In Thailand, woman daily pray before Buddhist altar and Mexican woman have the tattoos of ‘White Lady of Death’ – the Mexican folk religion figure. Glawogger stays out of the way, so as to make the viewers to ponder over these women’s religious pursuits.  Also, each part gets harder to watch before the previous one, because each of the interviews with the prostitutes and sometimes with their clients, always reveal things we aren’t expecting. The bodies of these women are shown as depreciating resource – once they are old, they are good for nothing.

Wolfgang Thaler’s cinematography (cameraman of other two documentaries too) has certain artistic ambition (has some excellent frames) and never seems pretentious. Many of the scenes prearranged with camera setups and Glawogger has paid all the women for their time doing interviews, but still the camera looks invisible, except for one part. The scene near the end, which features an extended sexual transaction, tries to be discreet, but the uncomfortable intimacy and shocking explicitness of that scene might make you squirm. In the Mexican part, the film-maker tries to get to know his subjects, which rather felt exploitative. The interviews were rather played up in using their dire circumstances and didn’t give an impression of valuing them as normal people. So, once gain we see Mexico that is lawless, mystical and cruel. The complications that are specific to this region never comes to light, since what we see is men and women smoking crack and obsessing over Santa Muerte.

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“Whores’ Glory” (110 minutes) doesn’t pass any judgment – not on the women or the men of both misogynistic and wistfully romantic kind. It is interested in emotion rather than the economics of this profession. Eventually, it is a horrific journey into a world that many of us would like to pretend doesn’t exist.

 

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