Young, wild and beautiful, full of boastful energy and strutting like peacocks in their black leather jackets, they are the brothers of the night, living in the belly of the Viennese nightlife, in Patric Chiha’s latest feature; a documentary that blends fantasy and realism. The contrast in the film is more than welcome, given that Chiha’s subjects are a wolf-pack-like group of Bulgarian Roma who moved to Austria in search of freedom and a quick buck before giving into the perks of the oldest profession in the world.
Chiha met them on a random night, in which he ended up in the bar where much of the action takes place, a tacky, unusual joint named Rudiger. There, hard to ignore, the boys, of an average age of 18, displayed themselves around a pool table, exchanging stories with each other as they waited and looked for customers, mostly lonely old men living in public housing, looking to fulfil their fantasies and desires. But far from Brothers of the Night being the type of film that looks at hustling as a social ill of sorts, this documentary purposefully chooses not to carry any heavy social message at all. In fact, in aiming to represent the boys’ real life, peculiar and unfamiliar, it seems to embrace the approach of realism through fakery. For this reason, the film could indeed be considered a collaboration. The director always decided with the boys what to shoot, and shot around their improvised lines of dialogues, whether he was shooting scenes of their everyday lives or constructing narrative like any piece of narrative filmmaking.
The style of the shoot was impulsive and, more than that, intuitive. Nothing much was planned in order to capture the essence of existence. This, as it happens, is quite surprising, given the stunning nature of the film overall. The baroque lighting gives the film a sense of timelessness. The composition of the shot enhances the street poetry of the film and is as gritty as it is beautiful. There is also a dream-like flow in the rhythm of the film that makes it quite immersive. On top of this, the film’s driving point remains the charisma of the boys, who behave like a wolf pack and have the charisma of a group of young Brandos. They are, after all, the ones around whom the film revolves and their lives so alien a times that their universal language of seduction turns into something quite alien when they talk about unusual things in unusual ways, such as their wish to “buy” a wife back home with the money they make. Despite their young ages, most of them are married and have children. Part of the reason for their move to Austria was their need to support them financially. When they arrived in Austria, they unexpectedly found their opportunity to live a wild adolescence they never got to experience when they were teenagers, growing up backwards.
Time is a fascinating undercurrent in the film, because after all, their current situation is temporary. Temporary like their youth and youthful beauty. Therefore, there is always the feeling that despite their relatively comfortable current situation, it could all end all of a sudden. The conversations they have with each other, in which they share experiences and information, other than revealing their strong bond with one another, occasionally show their fear of what’s to come and their future plans seem half-hearted, unrealistic and highly improbably or simply confused.
Brothers of the Night, from early on, shows signs of homages to great filmmakers such as Pier Paolo Pasolini and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, not only in the subject but also in the style. The latter’s sets in Querelle particularly inspire some of the film’s ambience and costumes. This is, on top of eye candy, another aspect that embraces the ‘realism through fakery’ approach, and further intensifies the sensuality of the opposite side of the film, which in turn is starkly contrasting in its asphalt streetwise grit.