A hundred men respond to an open call in a newspaper, turning up to audition for the latest film by Ruth Beckermann. Its title Mutzenbacher comes from Josephine Mutzenbacher or The Story of a Viennese Whore, as Told by Herself, a German erotic novel published in 1906. The book is famous and infamous throughout the German language region: it was banned in Germany until 1968, for example. Its detailing of the sexual adventures of a Viennese sex worker—an underage one at that—remains controversial. The story was almost certainly written by a man.
We view the auditions precisely as they took place: on a casting couch that looks like it belongs in a brothel. Beckermann asks each of the men to read out a passage from the book. This leads to candid conversations about sexual morality—with the roles reversed. Here, instead of Josephine being observed, it’s the men. The awkward moments of excitement, shame, and indignation are occasionally interrupted by a male choir that, on Beckermann’s orders, chant variations on the word “fuck.”