Stasi Officer: “Sit Down. Hands under your thighs, palms down. What do you have to tell us?”
East Germany citizen: “I’ve done nothing. I know nothing.”
Stasi Officer: “You’ve done nothing, know nothing… You think we imprison people on a whim?”
East German citizen: “No…”
Stasi Officer: “If you think our humanistic system capable of such a thing, that alone would justify your arrest.”
-The opening scene of The Lives of Others

One of my passions is film. I especially enjoy Indie and Arthouse films, and also old European classics. In the past year I’ve seen many films that would be a little interest to the average American moviegoer. But two of the films I’ve seen are surprisingly relevant to the media discussion of child porn. The first being Pier Giuseppe Murgia’s 1977 film Spielen wir Liebe (aka Maladolescenza, aka Adolescent Malice) and the other Dusan Makavejev’s 1974 film Sweet Movie.

Spielen wir Liebe has a cast of just three, Laura Wendel, Eva Ionesco, and Martin Loeb. The cast members would have been about 13, 13, and 18 years old respectively when the film was released. One review of Spielen wir Liebe begins

Children aren’t always as innocent as they seem if Maladolescenza is anything to go by, in many ways a discomforting drama from 1977 that undoubtedly has to be among the most controversial and scandalous movies ever to come out of Italy. With a cast consisting of no more than three it takes the form of a tense chamber play whose plot is played out in a pictorial forest where the two adolescents Fabrizio (Martin Loeb) and Laura (Lara Wendel) are meeting every day in their summer holidays – just like they’ve been doing for the past few years. Laura is deeply in love with the somewhat older Fabrizio, even though he constantly makes fun of and teases her with it. He wouldn’t, however, mind sleeping with her but she’s not ready to go all the way like he wants her to. Enter the chilly, pretty Sylvia (Eva Ionesco) – a little, manipulative blonde and quite a bit of a seductress. She doesn’t hesitate to seduce the lustful Fabrizio with her willingness and easily manages to twist him around her little finger, which ignites a cruel ménage à trois with a dramatic and fatal outcome.

Sweet Movie comes second only to Salo as the most visually shocking film I’ve ever seen. A reviewer at the IMDB says

First reaction to this challenging and astonishing film might be to pronounce it depraved or that the director is but then there is no suggestion that one will come away from this unique film a less moral person and so the accusation fails. Certainly I would like to think that for everybody there will be at least some part of this they find hard to take, indeed I don’t think I would like to sit too closely to anyone who lapped up every frame. Excess of all kind on display here plus a really difficult striptease among young children. And yet, I think despite some of the more flip and seeming silliness, Makavejev is screaming out for the individual to rediscover his private and public freedom. The Soviet Union comes in for most of the kicking, but then why wouldn’t it in 1974 when they were still presiding over the director’s birthplace and still denying the massacre of Poles so distressingly shown in original b/w footage.

These are serious films, enjoyed by aficionados who see film as art, who see film as a vehicle for social change, who see film as a means to strike out at those responsible for repression and injustice. These are not chick-flicks. These are not films you screen for your significant other on Valentine’s Day.

These films, Spielen wir Liebe and Sweet Movie are ART. These films are also considered by some to be child pornography.

In Spielen wir Liebe there’s a scene where Laura lies on her back, naked on the ground. Fabrizio, also naked, is shown briefly caressing her breasts. He’s then shown with his head at her pubic region, and Laura says “I feels warm, but it is not bad.” Soon he mounts her in the missionary position, and his naked body is briefly shown atop hers. This scene is not explicit sex like you would find in an adult pornographic film. It’s comparable to a sex scene in one of today’s R-rated movies. Further into the film, Fabrizio and Sylvia are naked, with Fabrizio appearing to perform oral sex on Sylvia. Shortly after he’s shown atop Sylvia and moving as if they are having intercourse, though their genitals are not visible. Fabrizio and Sylvia are shown naked several more times and in additional sexual encounters. As I was writing this I checked and found Spielen wir Liebe for sale on eBay.

The striptease in Sweet Movie involves a woman, barely dressed to begin with, who performs for four (?) boys in a bizarre candy shop. The boys seem to be eating candy and appear to be about 9 years old. The woman’s breast is shown about a foot from one boy’s face. She slowly unzips another boys pants. She kisses two of the boys and wraps some of her discarded clothing around their heads and necks. One boy lightly touches her bare stomach and slightly touches her bare ass. Near the end, the woman’s crotch, almost completely exposed, is within 6 inches of another boy’s face. You can rent Sweet Movie from Netflix and see it for yourself.

Now remember the case of the Pennsylvania Grandmother, Donna Dull, arrested on child pornography charges (dropped 15 months later) for a picture of “A little girl with her bare butt showing, kind of looking over her shoulder.”

Now consider this statement (source) by Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Child pornography is misnamed and misunderstood. It is not pornography. It is not protected speech. It is not victimless crime. These are crime scene photos, images of the sexual abuse of a child. They are contraband, direct evidence of the sexual victimization of a child.

A little girl with her bare butt showing, kind of looking over her shoulder. Crime scene photo. Direct evidence of the sexual victimization of a child. I don’t see the connection. Former York County District Attorney H. Stanley Rebert apparently did.

Something doesn’t add up. I notice this in most everything I read and hear about child pornography.

I don’t think the war on child porn is something those waging it ever plan on winning. Too much is at stake. The war on child porn is a proxy for other things. Like establishing government monitoring of the Internet. Like finding something to replace the war on drugs in case the war on drugs should continue to lose favor with the public. Like controlling the sexual thoughts of the public. Like restricting the work of artists, who have a nasty habit of challenging authority.

For now, the government doesn’t dare go after films like Spielen wir Liebe and Sweet Movie. But the way things are going, it’s only a matter of time. Better see them while you still can.

P.S. Eva Ionesco was a very attractive thirteen year old girl. If you’re a man and watch Spielen wir Liebe when you’re alone you–on second thought, I probably shouldn’t say that. Eva Ionesco is supposedly the youngest person to pose nude for Playboy (in the Italian edition, October 1976) when she was eleven. I haven’t seen this issue, so I can’t say what the images show. But I’d like to see it. Even better, I’d like to hear what Ernie Allen has to say about Eva Ionesco’s Playboy pictorial. Is it child porn, Ernie, or is it art? What about Spielen wir Liebe, Ernie, is it child porn or is it art? Looking at Eva Ionesco’s filmography at the IMDB, it doesn’t appear that the Playboy pictorial or Spielen wir Liebe has hurt her career.