PRISON SYSTEM 4614 || 2015, Germany || Documentary || Directed by – Jan Soldat / Written by – Jan Soldat / Produced by – Jan Soldat / Cinematography by – Jan Soldat / Editing by – Jan Soldat || 60 mins.
Homosexuality, fetishims and old age. These are three of the themes that have defined the short film work of filmmaker Jan Soldat. Prison System 4614, technically his feature debut despite it wrapping up at a well rounded one hour length, manages to encapsulate all these three.
Much like his previous works, Soldat does everything here – he shoots, directs, edits and so on – setting camp at the setting in the film and taking the camera along with him. The setting, from which this documentary draws its title, is a prison camp, run by a middle aged homosexual couple, in which men are imprisoned and tortured voluntarily.
There is a lack of contextualization in the film that is bound to frustrate and alienate some viewers. The film doesn’t ask itself questions, and doesn’t really draw any surprising psychological conclusions. It is composed of a succession of footage shot with a camera, firmly planted on the tripod, sometimes appearing to spy on its figures through cracks on the walls or behind the bars of the prison cell, widely remaining neutral to the action in front of it and often allowing its sequences to be unsettlingly longer than average, and longer than one would hope.
Therefore, Prison System 4614 could be described as an unpolished observational documentary. However, the lack of depth is evident due to the use of interviews, with the middle aged couple running the titular prison describing this specific type of fetishism, in a fairly unrewarding overview. There is inevitable irony in seeing their seriousness in their commitment to their work. Ironically, the provocation of its premise is never quite fulfilled, and the most rewarding sequences in this documentary are those that show the couple sharing moments of subtle sweetness as they look after each other behind the scenes of this theatre of torture. – 3/5