a film by Erik Lamens
Belgium 2009, Erotic-Drama, 88 min, rated 18
- “The most controversial film of the year” (Flanders Today)
- „Well acted, moving drama“ (Blickpunkt Film)
since 25th of april 2014 available on DVD, since summer 2020 as online stream
with Gene Bervoets, Veerle Dobbelaere, Koen Van Impe, Bruno Vanden Broecke, Sofia Ferri, Marie Vinck
script and director: Erik Lamens
producers: Bert Hamelinck, Kato Maes, Frank Van Passel
executive producer: Saskia Verboven
camera: Stijn Van der Veken. editing: Ewin Ryckaert
sound: Jan Deca. Musik: Ivan Georgiev
production: Caviar Films Production
distribution (German speaking territories): wtp international GmbH
After 15 years of marriage Koen and Magda are in a crisis. She is going through a heavy depression, neglects her daughter and also herself. Finally she has a nervous breakdown and has to stay in hospital. Back home, Koen askes her, how he could help her. Magda reveals her secret to him, a secret she had kept for 30 years: her secret but strong masochistic inclination and fantasies. She wants her husband to cause her pain. Koen is confused and reserved at first, but decides to stand by his wife and to get himself into her “dark desires” and walk this path together with her.
The couple goes to an SM studio and starts a psychological and sexual discovery journey.
Magda feels great relief, followed by a sensation of pleasure and happiness she would never have thought possible before. Koen is a judge in the Belgian Mechelem, but as their sexual life gets public accidentally, a prosecutor investigates and the family is in the focus of a public debate about privacy and justice.
“If the film manages to touch the viewers, then it influences them. And if it affects them, this will someday find expression in the thinking and acting of these people. From that point of view every moving film is also political. The public in Belgium already stood behind the judge and his wife while the case was heard and criticized the justice enormously. Many people watched this movie; it was even number one in the Belgian box office charts. I believe people think differently about sadomasochism now. People who live BDSM deserve respect. They are not freaks; they simply have a different sexual life. Recently a student BDSM –club was officially accepted by the university of Ghent. That never happened before. I would wish that my movie contributed a little bit to a bigger comprehension of the way of life of people living S&M. However on the legislation level nothing seems to change until now. Koen lives together with his wife Magda as a condemned sexual offender, from minimal social benefit in a small flat in Antwerpen“. (Erik Lamens)
STATEMENT OF THE JUDGE
“One day, on the Flemish TV channel VTM, I saw that ideas for scripts were searched, for a movie to be shot. The best 5 ideas were going to be produced and partly be supported by VTM. A few hours after having sent my story, I got a call from Erik. My intention was to make public Magda’s story. Speaking is easier for me than for Magda, that’s why I always took over the speaking at interviews (TV, Radio or newspapers). That gave the impression, that I was a dominant man, which is not true. The initiative was much more taken by Magda and everything was her desire. Therefor also the film’s point of view is not entirely correct, because I am shown as the central Figure. I am not a real S&M person and actually never understood the submissive persons, or the facts that some persons like to dominate others. What I can understand is that they do it during a session, but I can’t understand how you can make a way of life out of it.” (Koen Arousseau)
A film based on a true story
The Belgian judge Koen A. was sentenced for his SM relationship with his wife in 1997. The people of Belgium were shocked when they heard about that. Although their life was destroyed by the verdict, Koen and his wife Magda remained together until now.
A moving and exceptional story about the dark sides of sexuality and a love conquering all. The multiple award winning erotic drama is a moving film with impressive acting that gets under one’s skin. A pleading for privacy and personal freedom of choice.
The film is based on the true case of the Belgian judge “Koen Arrousseau”, who was charged and sentenced for bodily injury and procurement because of a private video in 1997.
The video, which appeared in the course of an observation regarding the Dutroux case in an S&M studio, shows him whipping his tied up wife and subjecting her to several sadomasochistic practices. The case got to the European Court of Human Rights and was confirmed there in 2003. Koen was deposed from office, lost his civil rights and all pension entitlement. This happened although Koen’s wife Magda credibly assured and testified several times that all of the scenes not only happened in mutual consent but even more at her own explicit request. These statements were confirmed by psychiatrists. Today he is on social benefits.
This case caused a sensation in Belgium in the end of the 1990s and got great attention in the media. “The most controversial film of the year” (Flanders Today)
The Belgian film maker Erik Lamens took this impressive story as a plot for his first feature-length film. The careful research and preparation for this film took about 18 months. Erik Lamens did not only read the entire court files, but also had hours of conversation with Koen and Magda to get to know their point of view. The preparation included visiting the S&M clubs in Antwerpen and intensive conversations with the guests about their individual experiences in the field of S&M. The story began with the strong depression of Magda, which lead to a nervous breakdown with hospitalization. This decisive incident led her to reveal her hidden strong masochistic inclination and fantasies to her husband. Ashamed, she suggested him to get divorced. But Koen decided to stand by his wife and to live out her “secret desires” with her.
Koen Allegaerts: Gene Bervoets
Magda De Herdt: Veerle Dobbelaere
prosecuter Versandt: Koen Van Impe
D.A. Blechtert: Bruno Vanden Broecke
Iris Allegaerts (13 years): Sofia Ferri
Iris Allegaerts (18-23 years): Marie Vinck
Fred Wolters: Dirk Van Dijck
Irène Wolters: Ilse Uitterlinden
Elke Wolters (13 years): Marie Van Loock
Elke Wolters (18-23 years): Amaryllis Uitterlinden
Dom P: Tom Waes
lawyer Guy Spaan: Michaël Pas
court bailiff: Nico Sturm
policeman Kevin Van Durmen: Stef Aerts
policeman Frankie De Groote: Gunther Lesage
director / script: Erik Lamens
producers: Bert Hamelinck, Kato Maes, Frank Van Passel
executive producer: Saskia Verboven
production company: Caviar Films
camera: Stijn Van der Veken
sound: Jan Deca
editin: Ewin Ryckaert
production designer: Bart Van Loo
music: Ivan Georgiev
casting: Sara De Vries
make-up: Ingeborg Van Eetvelde
costume designer: Sophie van den Klybus
Best Film 2010 (Cinekink New York, USA)
Honorable Mention by the Jury 2010 (Rome Independent Film Festival, Italia)
Best Film 2010 (International TV Festival Bar, Montenegro)
Best Actress (International TV Festival Bar, Montenegro)
Best Film 2009 (Kiel Fetish Film Festival, Germany)
Best Actor 2009: Gene Bervoets (Kiel Fetish Film Festival)
Best Actress 2009: Veerle Dobbelaere (Kiel Fetish Film Festival)
Transilvania International Films Festival 2011
Cinekink NYC, 2010
Rome Independent Film Festival, 2010
International Television Festival Bar, Montenegro 2010
Fetish Film Festival Kiel, Germany 2010
Split Film Festival, Croatia 2010
Montreal International Film Festival, 2009
INTERVIEW with ERIK LAMENS (writer and director)
What raised your interest to make a film about this subject? When did the first idea appear?
I followed with amazement the actual case when it was happening. As lots of other people, I was angry with the State. In my mind they had no business interfering with somebody’s sex life, even that of a judge. I decided to act upon it in 2005. I was looking for a strong subject to make a feature and this one was on top of my list.
How did you approach the subject? How did you meet Mr. Arosseau?
I called Mr. Aurousseau in july 2005 and I told him and his wife that making a movie is something like a marriage: we would have to trust each other. I needed them to trust me with this part of their life story. The first evening, we had a very nice and warm meeting; there was a ‘click’ right away. They gave me all the original material from the criminal case – all the conclusions of the lawyers, the PV’s (= the written statements by the police), the verdict… It took me 3 weeks to read through all of this and then I said to them: “I think we have a film here.” Of course I needed artistic freedom to bend the reality into good fiction. It was more difficult than I expected. Fiction has its own rules. Even if you encounter something strange on the corner of your street and you come home and you tell to your partner straight away what happened, you already turned reality into fiction: you are telling a story. But they trusted me and I trusted them. I wrote 4 versions of the script; the first one was very realistic but it was a boring film. The more I got away from the reality, the more it became a film. The shooting script (number 4) is in the facts wrong, but in the spirit it is very right. I gave them the script to read and they were very happy with it, they only had 2 minor remarks.
How was the Casting process?
Very weird actually – I thought I would have to cast a porn actress or something, as Fatih Akin had to do with ‘Gegen die Wand’. I was convinced nobody, and certainly not the women, would want to play that part, as it is a very heavy and deep part, with nudity and SM-treatments. There are some things you can fake, but not everything. But to my surprise all the big actors (male and female) were literally lining up to play the main roles. Just because it was so heavy really, that’s why they liked it that much. A well-known actress called me and literally said on the phone: “Take me for that part and I will drop everything I’m doing right now!” People were going really far to get that part. I decided upon the main actor but was deciding for the female part. And one of them said: “I want this part. This is the role of my life.”
Did you face any problems during shooting or during the release of the film?
No, not really. The biggest problem was lack of budget. We had 750.000€, which is only half of what you need. I had 25 shooting days and it didn’t do justice to the script, I believe. I had 179 scenes and had to cut 49 scenes. So we finally shot it at a rate of 5,5 scenes a day. If you know a shot takes about 45’( 12 shots in a day of 8 hours), then you know each scene was shot with an average of 2 shots… Even when do BDSM at their home or in the club the first time, it’s only 2 shots… That way it’s very difficult to get rhythm into a film. You cannot miss one thing, as you cannot cut away. I had to drop lots of nuances, we shot only the basic story. And 8 scenes were cut from the film. That’s something I never had to do. But if a scene is not working but you have no time to rehearse it or look for a solution, then you’re f***ed. So you shoot it like it is but in the editing you have to cut it out as it doesn’t get the standard the other scenes have.
What is your personal opinion about SM? Has it changed after making this film?
As most people, I didn’t know much about BSDM – I’m ‘vanille’, as they say. I was very afraid the first time I visited the club. They knew I was preparing a movie about it, and they had said I was welcome – as long as I was in leather of black clothes. And as long as I respected their world and didn’t go into sensation-seeking, they were fine with my presence as ‘fly on the wall’. And I was really surprised by what I saw – I saw more respect and tolerance. At an average football game, there’s more aggression. The first night of the couple in the club is a fictional report of my first night in the club. I hope my film got the BDSM out of the taboo. In Belgium it worked pretty well. Lots of people went to see the movie, it was even nr. 1 in the cinema, 500.000+ saw it on TV… So I think people think differently now about sado-masochism. Right this week, a student-BDSM club was officially recognized by the university of Ghent. That never happened before. I like to think that my film helped them a bit getting understanding for their way of living.
Are there any anecdotes in respect of the film? Are there experiences of the shoot that impressed you?
There’s a lot of funny things that happened. When we were shooting in the club, we were setting up our food & drink tables outside, as the club itself is pretty small. So all of our half naked extra’s in leather clothes were drinking coffee and eating croissants at 6.00 AM – a nice look. And a man came out and complained. He clearly didn’t like the club and started to make quite condescending remarks etcetera. But then he saw my main actors. They are quite well-known in Belgium, as are lots of the other actors. They weren’t paid very well but they like the script so much that they all wanted to be part of this film. So you could call it an ‘all-stars’-cast. And when this man saw them, his attitude changed immediately. He thought we were making porn or something, but then he said: “Oh, if they are playing it it, it must be serious movie…”. So I introduced him to my main actors, they had a nice chat and we didn’t hear him complain anymore. I knew this man from school, it was a jezuit-school, very strict, with uniform, going to church, making confessions to the priests, suppressed sexuality, etc. So it was funny to see him back between all these hardcore -BDSM people. (All the talking parts are actors, all the extra’s are real people from the BDSM-world.) At 8.00 AM his son came out with his bycicle, to go to the same school as his father and I had been to: he was dressed in uniform, short trousers… And this very catholic school boy had to make a way for himself through all the leather, gorgeous looking, half-naked extra’s. He had blushing red cheeks and looked at the ground. Quite funny.
What is central statement for you of the film?
That BDSM-people deserve respect. They’re no freaks, they just have a different sexual life.
Were the SM scenes difficult to shoot?
Not really. Of course we kicked the whole team out while shooting them – as it usually happens with nudity. So only me, the cameraman and an assistant were inside with the actors. But it doesn’t make a difference, as there is now the ‘video-assist’, so the whole team was outside of the chalet watching what went on inside. Veerle Dobbelaere insisted on playing these scenes herself. Only the part with the needles is a body double. Veerle said she needed to feel the pain to be able to play it. The scene with the needles through the nipples is played by the first female slave you see getting beaten in the SM-club. She was prepared by a session, partly sedated and Eddy Tattoo (a famour Antwerp tattoo artist) performed the insertion of the two needles. Later she said she would never do it again.
How did the actors cope with those scenes?
Very good, actually. Gene Bervoets (the man) said it wasn’t easy for him neither, but obviously the main difficulty was for Veerle, who plays the woman. She didn’t have so much problems with the hitting. The scene with the ‘needle-machine’ was very hard for her to play. She was fixed inside this apparatus for almost an hour and she needed some support after shooting that scene. One remarkable scene was with the candles. Veerle insisted on playing this herself. We had prepared her shoulders with ice, but she was still a bit burned, as the candle-grease reached a part where she wasn’t treated. We did that shot in one take. We rehearsed it ‘dry’ and had to get it right in one time and luckily, we did. Behind Veerle the extra’s were real BDSM-people, and after I said “Cut”, they gave Veerle a big applause. They said: “Where you have gone in a few months, that took us a few years. Respect!”
Why did you choose the title „SM Rechter“?
I’m very bad at titles. They are always litteral. In this case it’s the name he had in the Belgian press, so I stuck with it, as it also has a good conflict in it: SM & Judge – you know these are two concepts you seldom see together.
How did the audience react during the release?
Great. We had a modest promotion campaign, but we were helped by the normal press. Every paper and magazine gave the release a lot of extra attention – the real case had happened ten years before (1996-98) and they all looked back on it with other judges and justice specialists… The première was the society event of the spring. Everybody wanted to be there – there were 8 theatres and they were all packed, 2000+ – people in total with a great BDSM-after party… And they were all enthusiastic. After the first night in the cinema, I received a very nice phonecall – one every director always wants to get of course. The head of the distribution company called me: “You want to hear some good news?” I said: “Yes, of course.” “You’re number one in the cinema,” she said. So our litlle, Belgian film, outranked big Hollywood productions. Great feeling.
How did you become a filmmaker?
I always had a feeling I had something to express. It was always vague and I tried a lot of things: music, writing short stories, drawing… And in film I had the feeling everything comes together. I come from a quite different world: very catholic background, Jesuit-school education, prepared for a lawyer’s or an university career… It took me 6 years of struggling after high school to get into film school. But when I was there, I knew I was ‘home’.
You have any new project in mind?
I’m working on another biography. A completely forgotten man this time. He was born poor, became very rich and lost it all again. A tragic but compelling story and again a man fighting the authorities – at first winning, but losing in the end.
What were your first thoughts when you heard there is interest to make a film about your life?
A certain moment I saw on Internet that VTM (a Flemish television station) asked for ideas to make a scenario and later on a film of it. The best five would be made and partially sponsored by VTM. A few hours after I send my story I received a telephone call from Erik. My purpose was that the story told by Magda was known by the public. I speak more easily than Magda what makes that in every interview on television, news-papers, radio etc. it was always me who was speaking what has given the impression that I am a dominant man and that is was not sure that it was in fact a initiative and the will of Magda. On that point of view the film was not a real success because also in the film I am the central figure.
How did you meet Erik and how was the working process with him?
Working with Erik was very easy. You can say that is was a very good collaboration. He went several times at our apartment and introduced the principal actors to us. He wrote several scripts (I think 5). I was not enthusiast of his first scenario but at the end I saw that he understood what was really happened and that the ultimate version was not far from the reality.
What do you think about the film? Has it portrayed your life as it was?
Of course it was not a documentary so not all the details are correct but the spirit is right.
Was there a change in life for you after the release of the film?
In fact there was no change of my life after the release of the film. The only thing that change was that there was a new wave of interest on television and in the press with various interviews. Of course that disappears after a few weeks.
How did your children react in reality? Is it equal as in the film? And how is the relationship now?
Yes the children react as show in the film. There came a normalization but after the release of the film the two youngest broke the contact for three years. Only with the eldest, Kristin, who is the daughter of Magda’s first marriage and so not my biologic daughter, were the contacts all the time normal. Now the contacts with the two youngest are normal again.
Are you still practicing SM? In the film one has the impression that after the visit of the chalet you stopped practicing it.
We are no longer practicing SM. The reasons for this are: I’m not a really dominant ( we always did SM in the presence of someone who was it) and also: we are 68 now and sex becomes less and less important (in fact it has no importance at all on this moment).
What is your personal opinion about SM?
My personal opinion: I’m not a real SMer and in fact I never understood the submissives nor the fact that some people likes to dominate others. I can understand that they do so during a play but I don’t understand that one makes of it a way of live.
How are you doing now?
We are doing relatively well and notwithstanding the fact that I’m not very interested in sex it is always a pleasure to meet attractive young and beautiful women like you.