Short Film Review: Dream Girl (Traumfrau).
This insightful documentary short explores the ins and outs of romantic relationships with an inanimate object.
Director Oliver Schwarz’ short documentary Dream Girl (Traumfrau) is an arresting piece of work. It explores the life of one man who chose to rehabilitate his social life through an intermediary: a life-like sex doll. While the subject may seem grotesque or lurid, Schwarz explores the topic with care and a non-judgemental eye. At root it is a human story, and a fascinating meditation on the lengths we go to in order to give and receive love.
Dream Girl (Traumfrau) – 2012.
Dirk is a man looking for love. An almost too idyllic family life as a child created an intense desire for affection that wound up causing him to suffer a full-on breakdown as an adult. In order to ease himself back into interacting socially, he turned to a niche group on the internet. These folks were in romantic relationships with silicone partners – sex dolls. As the documentary unfolds, we watch as Dirk discusses and lives out his relationship with Jenny, a realistic but inanimate simulacra of a person.
Judgement Free Zone.
The subject matter of this documentary is quite challenging. Ethical, cultural, and sexual politics are all there. A bad documentarian could easily turn this into simply provocative red-meat. All this powder keg of preconceived opinions needs is a hint that the author is also sitting in judgement of Dirk. Dream Girl fastidiously avoids giving that permission.
Schwarz smartly structures his film in such a way that screens out bias. We never see Dirk’s face, and the angles are chosen to avoid showing Jenny in a titillating manner. No mean feat as she is an object built solely for that purpose. The narrative itself unfolds like a question and answer session between a patient and therapist, but we don’t hear the questions. Maybe there were none; we could just be listening in to Dirk as he extemporizes. Like a therapy session, it removes a sense of authority or judgement from the situation. This allows Dirk to speak freely and for the audience to see all of the angles around this topic.
Intimacy and Detachment.
The lack of structure and the emotional reserve that the film’s style creates could be stumbling blocks for other documentaries. As Nate noted, most docs have an axe to grind and are usually preaching to a choir. Dream Girl is engaging precisely because it declines to editorialize or give a authoritative answer to the questions it poses. I found myself re-watching the film several times; each time I came away with a different opinion on Dirk and Jenny, and new insights into their situation.
A Different Kind of Love.
Much like the film, I’m resisting the urge to talk about my opinions of Dirk and his relationship. Moral or amoral, healthy or mentally ill, sex positive or objectifying – the film gives you enough material and space to chew on those issues. Which is precisely what I would recommend you do: watch this well-crafted documentary and form your own opinion. Then perhaps re-watch it and start again. Oliver Schwarz’ film stands up under scrutiny and provides a thought-provoking window into a different way of looking at intimacy and relationships. It’s well worth your attention, and free via Vimeo and Aeon.