The Artist and the Pervert directors Behn and René Gebhardt on making a documentary that doesn’t other BDSM, but treats it with good humour and respect.
The marriage between avant-garde classical composer Georg Frederick Haas and his wife, Mollena Williams-Haas, a storyteller and kink educator, is the basis of Beatrice Behn and René Gebhardt’s funny, intimate, and daring documentary, The Artist and the Pervert. The filmmakers travel around the world with this pair of internationally renowned artists, exploring who they are as individuals, as well as their master/slave BDSM relationship. Both artists have suffered from trauma, which now fuels their artistic collaboration; Georg was physically abused as a child by his Nazi parents (his mother isn’t thrilled he married a black woman), and Mollena struggles with alcoholism.
While The Artist and the Pervert includes a few formal interviews, it is mainly a verité documentary, which captures intimate moments in the bedroom between the couple. However, the directors never make the audience feel uncomfortable; this is a far cry from the Fifty Shades of Grey version of whips-and-leather kink. In fact, a lot of the BDSM moments are surprisingly tender. I spoke with directors Behn and Gebhardt about how consent is essential — both to Georg and Mollena’s relationship and to the filmmaking process.