leather, nicotine, and blokeness
We met Mark over craigslist after posting an add for ‘Actor needed, open to nudity.’ For our short-film we wanted someone whose face suggested an already lived-life, someone who transcended that typical actor’s-physiognomy of just ‘another pretty face’ with a difficult yet clean charisma. Mark, a 55 year-old who has resided within Berlin’s raw geography for the past thirteen years, was one of the few suitable enough to get an email discourse started. The other replies, about five, seemed to take the German stereotypical cliché of streaked bobs, self-knitted vests, and overdone Faust monologues to a new dimension. Next to a short text about himself, Mark attached a showreel in which he appeared as a pool-area-gangster and an alienized Dr. Who, amongst other amateur roles. Mark fitted our ideal profile less than perfect. He was in fact, for lack of a better word, more.
His melancholic while genuine eyes evidenced a rare mixture of unpretentious satisfaction and a wisdom that most likely had accumulated over numerous life-changing chapters – exemplary partying to say the least. His mouth, which I am tempted to philosophise about for several paragraphs, is a mystery to me till this very day. I am not sure whether our curiosity became elemental due to his exaggerated straight teeth or their endearing yellowness, or his all-consuming smile that would cast super-celebs, like Julia Roberts or Cameron Diaz, straight in the corner. Mark embarked that instantaneous idiosyncrasy, one which not even Kuhdamm’s silken goddesses only a few blocks away from his apartment might be able to escape from. He caused a reaction, what kind is unimportant here.
After an extensive email exchange discussing possible locations and scenes, Mark answered with the following:
“I don’t know if you want me completely naked, but I have some interesting accessories you might like? … I could show you what I have and perhaps try a few things while you are here? I live in Charlottenburg.”
Eventually, we decided to drop our initial ideas for an experimental art video and have Mark be the focal point of the film: a protagonist of his own story. A sort of let’s-just-see-what-happens-swag.
Two weeks later, we arrived to his flat in the conformist heart of Charlottenburg. Thinking about it now, I am not sure what sort of home would have made sense for Mark to live in. Perhaps something a little rougher on the edges – a space that would reflect his casualness towards strangers, horse masks, nakedness, avant-garde fucking, and beer & cigarette breakfast. This is not to say that I imagined a dungeon with mirrors on the ceiling, a strip pole next to the velvet couch, while all sorts of bondage gear would nonchalantly rest next to a non-stop running RTL channel. Actually, my uncle would fit that description much better. I guess I just didn’t presume that much order. So instead, we suddenly found ourselves within a suburban-like space with colorful bed-sheets, Goebel figurines, a pink kitchen filled with strawberry jam and unnecessary utensils, bamboo decor, and other conventionalities that narrated some accountant’s lifestyle rather than Mark’s.
As we sat down at his living room table and indulged in afternoon chain smoking, we began to shoot. And didn’t stop for the next four days. Throughout, we interviewed Mark about his music career and partying, his childhood memories and ex-girlfriends, and his passion for fetish clothes. At certain moments during filming him, he suggested acting so he could ‘get into character’ and approach a different type of intimacy. While at the beginning I confessed his spontaneous monological rants a waste of time, it was only later that I realised the humorous beauty and rare significance in them.
Overall we shot in his flat and corridors, the Späti around the corner, a Russian supermarket close to Alexanderplatz, a random hill somewhere at Berlin’s periphery, and some nameless streets in Mahrzahn that seemed to advertise modern apocalyptic living. While the conditional space, situation, Marie’s and my ideas constantly altered according to our here and now environment, one thing, however, remained permanent: Mark. It didn’t matter whether we told him to take a bath, proceed with his daily routines in his fetish clothes, drink another beer and smoke another cigarette, aimlessly wander around naked in rural topography, or act out one of his spontaneous ‘acts’ as a bloke discussing the absurdities of patriotism – one could never tell if he was acting or just being himself. It became gradually evident that not even acting could surpass Mark’s real persona.
It is essentially this ambiguity, this silent intertwinement of fictional character and real persona, that sparked the idea of continuity in regards to Mark. That type of continuity that is expressed within a sense of completion – a utopian ‘landscape’ where all potentialities have been exhausted, necessarily reaching its totality. A continuity that ‘the new,’ a prodigy of contemporary society, targets for but necessarily fails due to its temporary nature. It is here where Mark is vis-à-vis with the new. Mark, within his individual society and moment in time, aimed for a certain prototype of being – precisely what the new struggles for. When Mark had reached his objective, he stopped and remained within that self-constructed architecture. Meanwhile, the new still remains in permanent homelessness.
Mark – whether a stranger who answers craigslist adds, a man who invites people to his home, who opens the door for you, who smokes rolled cigarettes and drinks cheap beer, who enjoys the feeling of leather on his skin, who would subconsciously refer to himself as a bloke, who gives self-less advice in regards to heartache for once, who likes to imagine an audience, who likes to play games, who can casually drink a coffee while being naked, who likes to take advantage of free tattoos (regardless of their obvious outcome), who has no problem with articulating the word ‘fuck,’who follows a Zizekian approach in regards to humanity’s idiotism – is a man who has arrived at his Eden. And we are here to be his spectators.