Tony Paterson: On the game, and now in the can

Berlin Notebook
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The Independent Online

Berlin hosts one of the world's most renowned film festivals. It is home to what purports to be Europe's largest brothel. And like most of the rest of Germany, it has an ageing population. Surprisingly or not, these three ingredients have now been combined to form the basis of a bizarre yet engaging fly-on-the-wall documentary which is impressing the critics at this year's Berlinale – now in full swing in the German capital.

The film is the work of 28-year-old Saara Waasner, a recent film school graduate who has produced a revealing study of three working Berlin prostitutes who are all old enough to be grandmothers. Entitled Silver Girls, the documentary introduces us to real-life characters such as 59-year-old Christel, who informs us that in Berlin there is a "considerable demand for older women".

Before becoming a prostitute, it emerges that Christel was a manic depressive who was forced to take a type of medication for her illness which ruined her sex drive. After undergoing therapy, she explains that she discovered her "physicality" and turned to prostitution. "Now I enjoy sex like a 20-year-old. Before it was just a service I performed for my husband," she tells the camera unabashedly.

A woman who runs a brothel in a Berlin suburb explains that she spent 30 years "on the game" in former Communist East Germany. "When you have once worked as a prostitute, you'll stay one for the rest of your life. I don't know anyone who has managed to quit completely," she says. Ms Waasner's third subject is a 64-year-old dominatrix who claims that she found happiness in her current occupation after giving up a 25-year marriage some 16 years ago. "These women are beautiful," Ms Waasner says, "and their beauty really comes from the fact that they are happy with themselves."

The hill is alive

For those who might feel the need to cool off after a film like Silver Girls, Berlin currently offers a host of opportunities – thanks in part to the RAF and USAF which pulverised the city during the Second World War. The hardest and snowiest winter for more than 30 years has worked wonders on the city's Teufelsberg or "Devil's mountain". More than 300 feet high, it stands on the western edge of the city overlooking the Grunewald forest. It is Berlin's only real hill and is made up of the rubble of 400,000 bombed buildings dumped there in the late 1940s and 1950s. As I write this its slopes are being used as massively popular ski, snowboard and toboggan runs. A thaw, we are told, is expected at the weekend.