Ancient Amateurs (2012)
A film, written and directed, by:
Screenplay and Creative session with:
Ronald van Vessem
Dimitry de Graaf
Janneke van der Hagen
Blue Donkey Media
Janneke van de Hagen
Behind the scenes camera:
Dimitry de Graaf
Ronald van Vessem
Ronald van Vessem
Make-up and Hair:
Make-up and Hair Assistant:
Made Possible With The Support Of:
Blue Donkey Media
Special Thanks To:
Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam
Het Licht Lighting Equipment
Ernstige Zaken Studio's
Copyright Stefan Ruitenbeek 2012
INTERVIEW WITH MARTA GNYP ABOUT ANCIENT AMATEURS
Marta Gnyp: Why did you choose to go into porn with your movie?
Stefan Ruitenbeek: There are several causes that have brought this work into existence. As an artist I am interested in the morality of aesthetics. Our judgement of beauty lies deeply embedded in our morality and what we deem to be good. There is a world, however, the world of pornography, on which the aesthetic morality, and everything else we consider politically correct or hold in high esteem within any other given context, doesn’t seem to get a grip. But, if you ask me, there is the higher universe of art, which is this big theatre of aesthetic and moral values.
MG: The film constantly displays the opposition between things: the pureness of primordial sexuality versus the commodification of sex in the porn industry; the confrontation between the quick satisfaction of desire sought after in porn and the sublimation of desire in art, the dreams and the reality. What do porn and art have in common?
SR: Both harbour the possibility for certain kinds of behaviour, but they also provoke certain behaviour, they are monsters that create their own rules.
MG: What was it like to actually make the movie?
SR: The high energy that I felt on the porn sets that I visited in the preliminary phase of making the movie, reminded me of the atmosphere I know from art school. Young people that hope to find something within that environment, who seem to find some hope or faith there, or who want to benefit from it.
MG: Art and porn as the promised land.
SR: Yes. Both art and porno are worlds made of illusions, in which promises and hope are magnified. The faith in these promises is what I work with; it is a subtle form of hypnosis that causes the transformation of my actors into the embodied figments of intersubjective imagination.
MG. Is that why the museum, as a place where the movie is in display, is so important, in order to play with these shifting patterns of expectation even more?
SR: Of course I’m interested in presenting pornography in the setting of a museum, because of the resulting transformation of meaning of these pornographic images. Everybody with the even the slightest interest for art must surely enjoy the way in which things seem to become enchanted in the light of our artistic expectations. It also really pleased me when I found out that the porn actors were willing to believe and invest in my story about the merits of art, origin, pureness and primitive man, that I told them long before the movie was even made.
MG: The great public interest in this movie proves that the setting of a museum for a semi porn movie isn’t the most obvious choice. Is it the showing of porn in a public that is a taboo, or is the showing of porn in a museum?
SR: Porn in the museum is mainly a taboo because of the predominant aesthetic morality, within the discourse of contemporary art as well as generally. If I’d chosen to film on porn set in a more documentary-style detached way, I would have maintained certain objectivity. If I had tried to present a polished image of the actors, it would mean I’d be worshipping them. I’m not trying to make fancy porn; the production quality is just as blunt as gonzo porn. The faith and conviction of the actors themselves is what enhances the make-believe of the story.
MG: How did the porn actors deal with the notion of primitive man?
SR: These are people who fuck each other professionally and relentlessly, only to see themselves in the most compromising and revealing documentation, their private parts more explicitly in the picture than their faces, are completely willing to leave their shame behind them. But in a childlike manner they accepted my fairy tale of birth and death, set in a utopian prehistory, where people are born from eggs and men cry after having inseminated the eggs.
MG: How did you come up with this idea of prehistoric life?
SR: The idea of making up a childish little tale about procreation, a myth about the evolutionary origins of sex, seemed to me innocent as well as ironic in the perspective of porn actors, who rather than making babies, spray their seed all over someone’s face, turning the body into a fetish of lust. I wanted to relieve my actors of their perverse role, to see them as naive and innocent beings; as primitive people in a simple world that doesn’t cultivate perversions. It’s a movie about innocence in a hypocritical, yet sacred, perverted, preconditioned world.
MG: Why did you choose Ancient Amateurs as a title for this movie? It is slightly paradoxical to refer to amateurism in a time that there was no distinction between sex amateurs and professionals.
SR: ‘Amateur’ in a porn movie indicates an inexperienced young girl or boy, who has not been in a porn movie yet and is therefore more ‘real’. Amateur porn is highly demanded. The people that watch this kind of porn also experience this defilement, as something that corrupts the girl and makes her less attractive. Like virginity or never-been-touched-before perhaps, but perhaps also because the behaviour of a girl like that is more authentic. Girls that have already been in porn movies are often still being advertised as amateur, because it brings in more money. My title suggests that everybody is an amateur when it comes to imitating the pure, utopian prehistoric lifestyle, because we don’t really know what it was like, and we never will.
MG: To the viewer, the mix of porno, making-of and art film can be confusing, making you feel like you don’t know where you are, or what you’re looking at. What effect do you want this movie to have on the audience?
SR: I want to bring the viewer along into the different perspectives that the film has to offer, as well showing them the thoughts that this film can generated. The movie is very real and extremely physical, whilst looking you’re being confronted with the physical exhaustion that men and women are subjected to, the pain and the pleasure, and at the same time we’re inside a hypothetical fairy tale full of magic. It has to be possible to feel involved with the fate of a young porn actress in the exploiting porn industry the one moment, and to then be surprised by the childlike innocent and brave way in which she takes part in the movie. The brutality of the way in which the men seize the women, the machismo, the men prepared to be vulnerable and to cry.
MG: This movie is about personal dreams and longing, also outside the sexual field, about the creating of your own identity. In between sex scenes a porn actor tells us that he thinks Armani and Hugo Boss are ‘good’, in short a statement on identity and quality.
SR: To get that kind of footage I invited a fashion journalist (Aynouk Tan) to interview the actors about how the beards and hair that we gave them to make them look like primitive people made them feel, but also to interview them about the clothes they wear in everyday life. Because of the beards there was this conviction with which they acted as primitives, and I wanted to make an analogy to the confidence in self-image, which is derived from wearing certain brands.
MG: I think your movie is interesting because it isn’t ironic or nihilistic. There is still hope for mankind.
SR: I think the movie is both ironic and nihilistic, but at the same time hopeful, loving, idealistic and naive. Apparently these things all go together.
MG: The supposed harmony of contradictions seems to be typical of our age. Do we live in a dull, decent age?
SR: People in the sixties knew what they wanted to break free from, these days it’s a lot less clear. Decency is the new wild, exploitation and consumerism is being advertised as freedom and conservative as hopeful, etc, it’s difficult to determine what dullness is exactly.
MG: Which do you consider the best moments of the movie?
SR: I think it’s great when actor Marcus tries to break one of the eggs open, and starts to roar and pound his chest in this helpless way when he doesn’t succeed. I also like the moment that the first actress seems to be a little touched by the eggs she just bore, because they are her children.
MG: How far do you go in copying the real porn movie rules?
SR: My porno is packed in a little fictional story. In this story you see a girl being smacked and begging the guy who’s doing it to stop. This wasn’t in the script, it just happened on set. I documented all these moments and presented them as part of the narrative. Although of course none of the actors were injured, I can’t claim that ‘no humans were harmed for this movie’. If the porn world is really that condemnable, so is this movie.
MG: Are you forcing the viewer to make moral judgements?
SR: In art you can’t get away with easy moral judgements. Art should challenge moral judgement.
MG: Why did you choose to work with clichés? Black men seizing white women?
SR: Indeed I have no problems whatsoever with the fact that my movie is full of porno clichés. Perhaps it makes sense that with my budget the only possibility was to cast black actors and white actresses, a natural course of events. I considered each actor suitable for this movie in his or her own way. There is the naive, childish bodybuilder; the friendly gentle one, and the vain gigolo. There is the tall skinny girl with fashion model aspirations, and the alternative girl that considers porn to be an interesting sub culture.
MG: Is this movie an attempt to reflect upon yourself? Your personal quest for origin and identity?
SR: It’s rather a consequence of my quest, than a quest on itself. Questions or problems don’t lead to answers or salvation, they lead to art.
MG: Does the setting of movie at the time of the dawn of mankind make the artist the creator of all creators?
SR: Creation is good; the creation of creation is even better, because that’s the beginning, the cause of everything ever after. I’m just as interested in the absolute, the infinite, the pure, the intact, primeval image, as I am interested in what is corrupted, defiled and deformed. I like being at the cradle of it all, just as much as working with what is already there, finished and complete, rejected or influenced, in other words at the end. My interest is philosophical as well as sociological.
MG: This film clearly shows how arbitrary the distinction between high and low culture is.
SR: This film is not about people that are highly educated or cultivated. You could say that their behaviour is very conditioned. You have to look for them in their own conditioned state. They are the imprints of what came before them, like the flowing pattern in the sand, left by the waves of the sea and the wind. I am interested in public entertainment and pornography.