Top Girl oder La déformation professionnelle [Top Girl or La déformation professionnelle] (2014)

Top Girl oder La déformation professionnelle
Director: Tatjana Turanskyj
Writer: Tatjana Turanskyj
Cast: Julia Hummer, Rolf Peter Kahl, Susanne Bredehöft, Karim Cherif, Samia Dauenhauer, Sarah Grether, Stefan Mehren, Mario Pokatzky, Janina Rudenska, Anna Schmidt, Susanne Strach
Seen on: 18.11.2017

Helena (Julia Hummer) is an actress and a sex worker. She has a daughter, a strained relationship with her mother (Susanne Bredehöft) and is always looking for new possibilities. When she is approached to organize a special event with some of her colleagues, Helena takes the chance. But the event is not your usual escort gig.

Top Girl is a complex approach to sex work that I don’t necessarily agree with, but it gives the topic more thought than a lot of other films and it knows how to work emotions.

Top Girl is most successful when it occupies itself with positions of power. When it shows who has power in what ways and in what situations. Since power dynamics are at the heart of the film, that’s a very good thing. Where Helena carves out her room to move and at what cost, and where her choices are limited really is the most interesting part.

That the question of power is at the heart of sex work, doesn’t come as a surprise in a patriarchy where most sex workers are women. Turanskyj focuses on a subset of rather privileged sex workers, allowing her a little more wiggle room to look for the agency afforded to them than the usual story about abused and forced sex workers. Still, I felt that especially towards the end she focuses too much on the lack of power than the potential. But it is a layered enough look at sex work that it will probably provoke discussion about the topic.

In any case, the last sequence of the film – the special event – is a deeply uncomfortable affair where the problematic side of sex work in our society (the lack of power, the patriarchy, the objectification) is laid bare in a highly effective way. It’s a scene that is burned into my brain now and that really carries a punch.

The film is repeatedly punctuated by the scenes where Helena’s mother, a singing teacher, practices with one of her clients a part of a song with the lyrics “Ich habe genug” (“I have [had] enough”), a perfect expression of an entire life attitude that fits the entire film.

Summarizing: I liked it.

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