Sex, Lies, and Religion in Whores’ Glory: An Interview with Michael Glawogger
by Cynthia Lucia
Austrian filmmaker Michael Glawogger, now in his early fifties, has—over the course of three decades—moved fluidly from documentary to fiction and back again. His work in both modes, like that of Werner Herzog, whose influence he cites, is marked by its refusal to offer easily categorized images of complex social settings or simple explanations for the contradictions at the core of human behavior and desire. Like the films of Dziga Vertov and Joris Ivens—also acknowledged as shaping influences—Glawogger’s films are consummately lyrical in their celluloid (not digital) interplay of light, shadow, textures (and color, in Glawogger’s case). Like Vertov and Ivens, Glawogger carefully composes shots, fluidly choreographs his camera (which is rarely hand-held), and strategically attunes editing to the paradoxes present in the world he observes—where beauty sometimes emerges from squalor. And this can pose a problem when critics accuse Glawogger of aestheticizing impoverishment and sidestepping a clearly defined position on what he observes. In response, as Glawogger says here, documentary ultimately is a debate—between the filmmaker’s reality and what is defined as reality. But then, again, he asks, what exactly is that definition of reality? Although it would be easy to label his position as postmodernist, he and his films tend to eschew such labels—much as he questions the strategy behind labeling his three documentaries—Megacities (1998), Workingman’s Death (2005), and Whores’ Glory (2011)—a “globalization trilogy.” Whether the label came from distributors or publicists, it’s one that Glawogger often references but more often denies as a meaningless catch-all term.
Whores’ Glory, the most recent in the trilogy, is as its title announces about prostitutes—their lives and their dignity, and quite possibly their glory. In it, Glawogger observes and talks to the women, their customers, and their managers in three very different settings: Bangkok, Thailand; Faridpur, Bangladesh; and Reynosa, Mexico. In Bangkok the film observes one of many “Fish Tank” brothels where the women are supplied with hair stylists, make-up artists, and a wardrobe room. Once costumed, they enter a glass display case, where, like department store mannequins, they are available to male “shoppers” who look, debate, question, and finally choose. The women here live independent lives—in charge, more or less, of having chosen this line of work, of who they are, and what they want.
In Bangladesh Glawogger’s camera is immersed in the “City of Joy,” a sadly ironic name for a brothel where life is oppressively dark and demeaning—for both the prostitutes, their madams, and their customers. Under the rule of older madams or “mothers”—rather than male pimps as we might expect—the girls rarely or never emerge from the brothel, if even to stroll on an outside street. They eat, sleep, work, and live there. Yet, in this depressingly confined location, the film captures a surprising lyrical beauty as very young women, most of whom are actually girls, speak of their experiences. One, who appears to be about fifteen or so, compellingly addresses the camera: “We women are actually very unhappy creatures . . . . Isn’t there another path for us? Is there a path at all?” Both her phrasing and her appearance, as she sits on her bed in a red robe, are gripping and unsettling. At the same time as we admire her insight, which is simultaneously ingenuous and world-weary, we wonder whether subtitles (on which this viewer must depend) have been written to heighten or to add lyricism to her clearly heartfelt words—heartfelt, as evident by the way she pauses, reflects, hesitates, and almost is brought to tears. But that also, perhaps, is a performance. To its credit, the film invites rather than suppresses this question.
In Mexico both the prostitutes and their customers are the most open and explicit about articulating the sexual acts they both deliver and desire. They are the most overtly direct in their word choice—they say “cock,” while in Bangladesh they say “penis”—whether a subtitle nuance or one based on actual language, it is a bit difficult to tell. But since the interviews required subtitling even into Glawogger’s native German, it seems likely that some minor tweaking or significant reshaping of phrasing and diction may have occurred. While the film provides powerful interviews with prostitutes in Bangladesh that are all but absent in Bangkok, it seems the film has greatest access to the women and their work in Mexico. The film presents an actual liaison between prostitute and customer; whereas in Bangkok and Bangladesh, the door is literally closed on the camera so often that it constitutes a clearly self-reflexive motif.
Glawogger openly admits that he paid money—and a lot of it—to gain access to his subjects. And he paid on multiple levels, whether to the mafia, to pimps, prostitutes, and even to johns. “It’s a matter of decency,” he said, particularly in regard to the prostitutes, explaining that for every minute in front of the camera, they are prevented from working and earning money.
A cramped, confining Bangladeshi brothel in Whores' Glory,where prostitutes of all ages live and work together
In Mexico the link between religion, sex, and death—one of Glawogger’s primary concerns—is most explicit as women pray to La Santa Muerte. In Thailand, the prostitutes stop at a small Buddhist shrine on the way to work, praying for lots of customers. And in Bangladesh they ritually cleanse their doorways and beds with sprinkles of water and with waves of fire from rolled newspapers lit aflame. Glawogger’s interest in the connection between sex and religion, and his visual choices in these films, he claims, are largely influenced by Catholic altar paintings and their triptych form, and most explicitly by the triptychs of Hieronymus Bosch. In thinking about Bosch, one might speculate that Bangkok is a kind of heaven, Bangladesh a hell, and Mexico a purgatory. But, of course, that is not quite the division Bosch has in mind, with his whimsically contradictory details. The same can be said for Glawogger.
Near the beginning of Whores’ Glory there appears an epigraph from Emily Dickinson (a poet whose own life of sexual longing and apparent repression stands in rather ironic contrast here—but then again not, on further reflection upon the women in the film and what they have to say). “God is indeed a jealous God,” the title line proclaims, because “He cannot bear to see/That we had rather not with Him/ But with each other play.” Dickinson’s elusive poetry takes time and patience to unpack—its surface sometimes seemingly simple and dismissible. At times, Whores’ Glory appears similarly simple on the surface of things yet compellingly contradictory on reflection.
Cineaste met with Glawogger twice: in Greece at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival in March to discuss Whores’ Glory, which was shown there, and in New York City in April, when the Museum of the Moving Image presented a retrospective of his work and the Film Society of Lincoln Center premiered Whores’ Glory for New York audiences as part of their "Film Comment Selects" series. The film was screened in Boston at the Harvard Film Archive a few days earlier—all kicking off a multi-city series of U.S. screenings and appearances by Glawogger, including one at the San Francisco Art Institute, where Glawogger first studied film.
Here, we concentrate on Whores’ Glory, based on our discussions in Thessaloniki. In the fall print issue of Cineaste, we feature a more comprehensive interview on the trilogy.
Cineaste: What drew you to the subject of prostitution?
Michael Glawogger: As part of a trilogy, along with Megacities and Working Man’s Death,the theme of prostitution naturally came up as a subject for this film, arising especially from the scene of Cassandra, the striptease dancer in Mexico City we see in Megacities. It was one of the most talked about scenes in the movie. It is there that the question of a connection between religion and sexuality began in my thinking. The sequence has almost a religious touch to it. Also in terms of controversy—I like moments in films that raise questions—is it good, is it bad? It makes a knot in your head. It’s an interesting moment, and I had the feeling that it should not be confined to a four-minute segment but that an entire film should explore it.
Cineaste: You have said that prostitution is like war—it always has been and always will be—it simply is. I wonder if you can talk further about that, now that you’ve been so intimately exposed to prostitution. It seems that it’s not only about sex and money.
Glawogger: From the side of the customer it’s also about happiness—there’s a certain kind of happiness for men when they can freely choose. It’s an awkward thing, in a way. In Thailand when the men can sit in front of a shopping window and say, “I want number 38,” the thrill at this moment probably amounts to more than that of the act of sex. Also, the customer is paying for the woman to go away afterward. These are two big factors in the mentality of the customer. From the other side, it’s a way to make money. The real injustice may be that, in the whole scheme of prostitution, it hardly ever is the other way around. There is no woman who can, after a hard day at the office, go to a brothel and get herself a man. That hardly exists and the idea hardly ever comes up. Maybe there is a difference—maybe it’s the power scheme or the mentality scheme—but there is a huge injustice there.
Cineaste: Don’t some of the prostitutes in Bangkok use their earnings to pay for male prostitutes when they leave work? There is the nightclub scene in which they appear to be paying dolled-up male prostitutes.
Glawogger: That’s very different. They mainly want the guys to be nice to them; they want gorgeous men who hold their hands and pour their drinks. Hardly ever do they take them home. I’ve seen rich women in Thailand go to male prostitutes for gays and get their guys that way, but Thai society is more androgynous than anywhere else. The male/female division is not as defined as in other cultures. Thailand also has the biggest population of kathoeys or “ladyboys,” of fully operated men. Foreigners who come to Thailand may not realize that sixty percent of the girls working are kathoeys. They hardly ever find out, and they fall for them because they are more female. A man who had been operated on has to show his female qualities more strongly than a woman ever does. So if you see a sexy girl up there on the stage dancing very provocatively, you can bet she’s not a woman.
The "Fish Tank" in a Bangkok Brothel
Cineaste: Drag queens also perform femininity better or more overtly than women do.
Glawogger: But drag queens are easier to recognize as drag queens. With kathoeys you would never know because the operations are done so thoroughly there. They change the size of hands and feet. It costs sometimes half a million euro to totally alter your body.
Cineaste: I found it fascinating that you said the job of prostitutes is about being fake—that going into the film you decided to believe everything, no matter how contradictory, because that’s where the truth is. In one interview you’re quoted as saying, “The truth is a big fat lie. But that doesn’t make it less true,” which I think is good point. But isn’t it also about performance?
Glawogger: It is about performance. Someone once asked me whether or not I took everything to be true, as for instance when one woman in Mexico says, “I like sex so that’s why I have this job.” Some people believe she said that for me and for the camera. In a way that’s true. But I made an agreement with myself that I would take everything the women say to be true. It doesn’t make sense to do otherwise because there is truth in every lie. I realized when researching that the women would say something on Monday and on Tuesday they would say something else. The whole game of flirting, of sex, of prostitution is about cheating, about bending the truth a little. I tried to take it as they would give it to me, without questioning it.
Cineaste: The word “performance,” for me, has something to do with empowerment. It’s not about lying or trying to justify something, it’s also about playing—playing a role, playing a game—and feeling a little bit empowered in the process.
Glawogger: I actually was pushing the viewer in that direction with the Emily Dickinson quotation at the beginning of the film, because it shows the ambiguity of what happens when we play with each other.
Cineaste: In Bangkok the playful performance aspect is most apparent; whereas in Bangladesh it’s a very different dynamic.
Glawogger: Bangladeshi society is very, very different. You have a world where a woman of nobility can’t go into the street without being taken for a prostitute. Then you go into a compound where everything is turned around, where women have the say, where there is female rule, where everything is based on women. It has to be harsher because sexuality is way more repressed in the entire society. Like one young single guy says in the film, “If we didn’t have the brothel, where would we go? Would we fuck goats and cows?” There you see the mentality. For the younger generation there is a desperation about their sexuality because they have nowhere to go—there is no empty apartment, there is no park where they can hold hands and kiss, there is no family room without five other family members in it. If you’re an adolescent in a country like that, you have nowhere to go with your sexuality but to a brothel. Nowhere. And for a woman you have nowhere to go. So, of course, this kind of tension loads up. In Bangkok it’s completely the other way around. Sex is everywhere. Not only in brothels. If you go to a restaurant in Thailand and you like the waitress, you can ask her and most likely she will say yes. It’s a very different kind of a dynamic.
Cineaste: The power structure in each location is sometimes on the surface, sometimes hidden. The mafia is in charge in Bangkok, but they are not so visible. The mothers are quite visibly in charge in Bangladesh. But are there men outside the brothel who actually call the shots and to whom the mothers must answer?
Glawogger: No. The only thing they have to do, like everywhere else, is pay off the police. But there is no male rule; it is completely a female place. If a woman there has a male child, it’s bad for her.
Cineaste: In Mexico the pimps aren’t visible, but elsewhere you’ve said that they hold more power than in just about any other place.
Glawogger: The strange thing is that they’re about 1,000 kilometers away in a town that only consists of pimps. They hold the girls in line by cell phone, and they always send another girl to the next room to control the girl in the adjoining room and vice versa. It’s very strange—I don’t fully understand how it works. There is such a deep dependency—the pimps make the women fall in love with them; they control them with witchcraft, with power and love and whatever means they have. The girls give the pimps almost all of their money, in sharp contrast to Bangkok, where the girls get to keep eighty percent or more of their money. You could almost say that it’s pretty fair in Bangkok.
Cineaste: Let’s get back to the issue of religion. You’ve said in many interviews that you wanted to make a kind of “triptych”—in the mode of a Catholic alter painting, and you mention the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch. Why did these paintings become such an inspiration for the film?
Glawogger: The structure of the altar paintings, with the three parts, is something I find interesting. I am influenced by fine art more than anything else, because the style of my filmmaking is very visual; it’s based on imagery and what an image means much more than it is on language. The three-part structure of the paintings show different stages of human life, different fears; they go deeply into the human soul and the human condition. They elaborate on the idea of the world, of heaven, of hell, along with the idea of redemption and guilt—all of which also circles around sexuality. The details of Bosch’s paintings are ordered by a Catholic structure and by Catholic thinking, but they’re also all about sex. There is a huge connection between my themes and these paintings.
Cineaste: Death is an important presence, especially in the Mexican setting, where the prostitutes pray to “Lady Death.”
Glawogger: I think it’s interesting that “death” is a feminine noun in the Spanish language and that the “Holy Death” is a female deity. It’s interesting that so many of the prostitutes, criminals, drug addicts, and lower class people turn to this deity and make sacrifice to this deity. They have “Holy Death” tattooed on their bodies. It’s the most important figure of Catholicism in Mexico—La Santa Muerte.
Mexican prostitutes lure customers to their doorways
Cineaste: Among the lower classes or among all groups?
Glawogger: Mostly within the lower class, but that class is huge. Everywhere else in the world the Catholic Church would forbid it, but it goes so deep and has such a huge number of followers in Mexico that it’s hard for the Church to control it. They’re losing so many people anyway that they just let it happen. Death has always played a big and very interesting role in Mexican society. They celebrate death with a heart that is not about the darkness of death but about an almost joyful understanding of it. When they celebrate death at the cemetery, they eat and drink there and have musicians perform there in order to celebrate with the people who have died. To me one of the most touching scenes in the movie is when the prostitute Brenda says that your mind is your prison and that Holy Death can offer her hand to you, but it is your choice whether or not you take it. It’s a very suicidal thought, but at the same time, it’s a very deep thought that I would never have expected. I think the Santa Muerte does something to the minds of the people there, which to me is a very interesting concept.
Cineaste: There’s an interplay in which they seem to see death as a form of liberation, but at the same time they seem to acknowledge death almost as a means of cheating it. So it’s also about survival.
Glawogger: Exactly, that’s what it’s about. It’s about survival in a life that’s hard to take.
Cineaste: Brenda has a female lover whom she seems to adore yet when they speak to you, she expresses not only her desire for her lover but also a sense of wanting something that is withheld. And this is visible among prostitutes in Bangkok, as well. It’s very human and becomes almost a metaphor for prostitution itself—always the elusive desire for something more or something else.
Glawogger: If you lead such an extraordinary life in terms of sexuality, I think it’s very human to want the opposite, to want to lead a very bourgeoisie or a very safe and secure life. So many times you want the opposite. In Europe everyone goes to tanning salons to darken their skin; in Bangladesh they give girls pills to lighten their skin. It’s the desire for something you don’t have. Many prostitutes have boyfriends who don’t know about their real lives; they want to have their own secure life outside of that. Even the girls in Bangladesh, who are basically locked up in the place, have their “baboo” or boyfriend to whom they give free sex. So there’s always this desire to have something else.
Cineaste: Isn’t this what men are seeking when they visit prostitutes?
Glawogger: Men are stupid about this. They always think they’re the most sensitive, the best in bed, whatever. They can go to a prostitute who has had twenty customers, and they still will think that they are the real one. And the girls also, of course, know that and play with that.
Cineaste: I thought it was pretty hilarious when, in Bangkok, one of the male customers sits gazing at the women inside the display booth and says, “We’re just commodities here.”
Glawogger: To his thinking, it almost makes sense. European men also sometimes think the same way—“But I bring the money! I support the family. They couldn’t live without me!” And it’s also so funny that in Bangkok, with the women behind the glass, neither side hears what the other is talking about.
Cineaste: Several other moments stand out, but for very different reasons and to very different effect, like when the young girl is crying inconsolably in the Bangladeshi brothel. Were there moments that were especially difficult for you as a filmmaker—when you may have felt the desire to intervene or a discomfort with filming?
Glawogger: If I do, then I don’t film those moments. It’s hard to say, because you get so used to the surroundings. The mothers and the girls beat each other up every day. There’s always quarreling about the customers, if a girl thinks the customer is on the way to her and another girl takes him into her room. I have many scenes where they hit each other with sticks and are very brutal. When you see that for the first time, you think, “Oh my God, can I film that?” But it’s so normal there; the beating goes on every day, so you come to think, “Oh my God, not again!” When it becomes so normal, you don’t hold back with filming it. And it doesn’t change anything if you’re not filming.
Cineaste: At the same time, you’ve said that you don’t want the prostitutes to be seen as victims, and the very title of the film suggests that. But in Bangladesh, it’s hard to see the prostitutes as anything other than victims.
Glawogger: They are victims, but I want to say that they are not only victims. When you look at the film, there is every shade of gray. You see human trafficking, you see very organized, tough girls who do not work for a pimp. If they have the guts, they can tell the guys to go fuck themselves and they will go away. Some can operate almost independently, though they have to give some share to the mafia. I met a number of women in Europe who work independently—women who run a brothel together and who would never give men any kind of money. You see everything in this trade. There are very bad things going on. My film is not dealing with the crime of prostitution but with the everyday process of prostitution and of sexuality, which is a different endeavor than, say, a film about trafficking would have been, because that’s a film about a crime. I don’t consider normal, everyday prostitution a crime. And I also say this is not about prostitutes as victims also because the girls themselves often explain that they don’t want to be seen as victims.
Cineaste: I see that in Bangkok and in Mexico, but in Bangladesh it’s more difficult. Even the filming style conveys something else—you’re in a very dark, confined space and you don’t really move from that space with the girls. In Bangkok and Mexico, you show them outside the space of the brothel.
Glawogger: In Bangladesh they hardly ever go outside. They’re not allowed to. It’s a prison. It’s a prison with no walls and no gates, but it’s a society in which a woman cannot walk alone outside without being sold to the next brothel. The whole country is a prison. Sometimes if the women are of higher status—if they’re a “mother,” for instance—they can go out shopping, but that’s the limit. They can’t go out walking.
A prostitute and john in the "City of Joy"
Cineaste: But that is criminal.
Glawogger: In a way, it’s not criminal in that society. It’s always a question of context. It’s the same with money. The film never reveals how much a girl earns in that brothel—it’s two dollars for one fuck. If that were in the film, people would say, “Oh my God, two dollars!” But two dollars is something completely different in Bangladesh than in another context. So it doesn’t tell much, and I don’t want to have this pity thing with people reacting that way. Another example is that child prostitution is forbidden in Bangladesh, but you have to understand that these brothels have existed for 120 or 150 years, and always the rule of the game has been that the girls have to work when they first have their period. At that point, the girl is considered a woman. So it’s very hard to get that out of their heads because they’ve done it for so many decades or hundreds of years. Then they have this new law about child prostitution and they don’t understand it.
Cineaste: You’ve talked a lot about your negotiations, first with the governments to film and then with the mafia, pimps, the women themselves. You also have said that you had to pay at many levels to gain access. Paying the women makes perfect sense, since you are taking up time when they could be making money. Was there ever a sense in which the women openly collaborated with you because they saw a value in what you were doing?
Glawogger: In Bangladesh you may remember there is a woman sitting on a bed and we see her child playing there. When she saw the film, she said, “What this woman said is true and the whole world should hear it.” That was ethnographically interesting—she almost drew back from herself and talked about herself in the third person because she had a cause. When filming, I would encourage her to say what she wanted to say, telling her that a lot of people were going to hear it. There’s a real message when she talks about the inside and the outside—that the customers love the women inside the brothel but hate them outside the brothel. She understood very well the concept of a male dominated society.
Cineaste: How did you show the film to the women? Did you have a screening?
Glawogger: No. That would not have been possible because they had to work. I set it up on DVD in a different room where they had a television, and the girls would be running in and out. In Mexico I left the DVD with them, and they would all gather to watch it. I even left the longer version so that they could see more. They’re very curious about how it works in other countries.
Cineaste: How did they respond?
Glawogger: Cubana, one of the Mexican prostitutes, said that she thanks God she can work in Mexico because she wouldn’t want to sit in a glass cage as in Bangkok where she couldn’t communicate with the customers. She said she wouldn’t know if she likes the guy or how to treat him well. The situation in Bangkok, where there’s no talking beforehand, is very inhumane to her—there’s no heart in it if there is a glass wall between the men and the women.
Cineaste: So it is somewhat about human contact rather than purely about the exchange of money for sex?
Glawogger: In a way, but on the other hand, there is the sex scene in the movie, and you see that, when the customer has no more money after the agreed-upon twenty minutes, it’s end-of-story for him. You can observe that in other human relations, mostly in Asia, for example. If the man doesn’t provide, he’s out. If he’s a good provider, he’s in and he is loved but not if he doesn’t provide.
Cineaste: How did you shoot the sex scene? Were you present in the room?
Glawogger: I was not. The cameraman and the soundman were there.
Cineaste: Besides paying Brenda, did you also pay the customer?
Glawogger: In that case, I didn’t want to impose a man on Brenda that she didn’t like so when we agreed that she was willing to do it, I gave her an amount of money and said she could pay the guy. I think she thought he was cute. He had been around sometimes but she had never had him, so she invited him.
Cineaste: So the scene is staged when he drives up and they bargain?
Glawogger: Once Brenda set it up, I told the guy to drive around the corner and stop by her door. To that extent a lot of things in documentary are staged.
Cineaste: You say that when she closes the door the power balance shifts and she’s in control. I wonder how much that has to do with the presence of the camera, for in other settings we sometimes hear of women who are beaten or abused by johns.
Glawogger: Everything is shaped by the camera, but I think what we see is pretty much the normal deal there. Men are afraid also, in a way, to go to these places. The girls do it everyday so many times that they are not as agitated about the whole thing. You can always have violence, but I think there is more violence in middle class houses than in rooms in a brothel. I’m sure of that. I think what I got in the film is pretty much the raw deal of how it happens. It’s not very nice sex, though [laughter].
Cineaste: Did you ever consider using a concealed camera for that scene?
Glawogger: No. I don’t do that—I hate it. I think that even every dictator or criminal has the right to his own image. I don’t want to be a fly on the wall. I have an agreement with the people I film, and that’s also the deal I offer to the audience—there was a camera present, you can see it in my movies, and that’s the deal you get. If you think it’s less true because of that, think it, but I doubt it.
Cineaste: You speak of spending a great deal of time in advance of filming when you’re getting to know the place and the people. Do you have your camera and sound people with you before you start filming?
Glawogger: No. There are only the translators and me. The crew members come only when we’re ready to shoot, maybe a couple of days earlier. The people in the film have a relationship with me. When the cameraman comes that’s new and interesting—it’s not a problem.
Cineaste: In dealing with a subject like prostitution, there’s always a thin line between what might appear to be exploitation versus observation. Did you find yourself, during the shooting or editing process, having to negotiate around that line?
Glawogger: I don’t think so. I don’t think about exploitation because I believe I have a fair deal with my protagonists. I’m not only taking something but I’m also giving something. I don’t exploit them. I’m not a pimp.
Cineaste: From an audience perspective do you think about this? When you’re editing, do you have an audience in mind?
Glawogger: No. I don’t make films thinking about what the audience wants to see; I make films thinking about what I want to show.
Cineaste: And there were no moments when you found yourself debating about what you wanted to show and how you wanted to show it?
Glawogger: Of course. That’s the normal process of editing, but not in the respect that I’m thinking about whether it’s too much for the audience or wondering how they will take it.
Cineaste: And not about how the women themselves are going to be represented?
Glawogger: Yes, but the women are quite strong in this film.
Cineaste: The film is visually stunning. Yours is the only movie I’ve seen at the festival projected in 35 mm, rather than shown on DVD. Will you continue shooting on film?
Glawogger: I think it’s over. And when the technology is such that you can get the same or a stylistically different but good result with other media, that’s fine. I tested a lot of cameras before making Whores’ Glory because it does make life easier when you don’t have to carry around so much raw stock, but the result was not satisfying for me in capturing depth of field or in warmth or style. The women and girls make themselves pretty all day long—it’s sort of their value, their goal to be pretty, and I wanted to show that. They would kill me if they didn’t look pretty. Like after the scene where Cubana shows her breasts, I asked her if she was satisfied with what she had said and she replied with, “Oh, that was very fine, but do my tits look alright?” It’s very normal in this kind of context. So I wanted the warm look of film to glamorize the women in a way. But that was easy. They are in front of a mirror all day long—what looks beautiful comes from them, not from me.
Cineaste: What are you working on now?
Glawogger: I’m working on a project that is called Untitled,and it’s a film about nothing. I think the biggest enemies of documentary filmmaking are theme and issue. So I want to travel the world for a year and film whatever comes up.
Cineaste: Do you prefer documentary to fiction?
Glawogger: No. They are two different approaches that, for me, nourish each other, so I go back and forth. Fiction is an interesting mind game in organization and operation, and the flow with the actors is very interesting. But documentary filmmaking is the more challenging and involving life because you can see and approach things that you could never do otherwise as a normal person or a tourist.
Cineaste: Some filmmakers have said that fiction allows greater access to truth than documentary does.
Glawogger: That’s a coquettery [laughter]. But it’s an interesting thought, too, because there is this myth that documentary captures objective reality, which everyone knows is bullshit. I think film is always a debate between the filmmaker’s inner reality and something we call reality.