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Sixteen year old Marek (Mirek Caslavka) leaves his dreary small town life for the beautiful but treacherous streets of Prague, a city where everything can be had for a price. He is quickly lured by a greasy pimp into selling his body to the many tourists who flock to the city for its cathedrals, castles and tender male flesh. Emboldended by his clear marketability (he's gorgeous), Marek and his handsome streetwise buddy David decide to enter the teen flesh trade on their own. But kinky johns, all too available drugs and their own self destructive natures propel them instead into a hellish world in which the instinct to survive is their only hope. Directed by leading Czech filmmaker Wiktor Grodecki (Not Angels But Angles, Body Without Soul), Mandragora is based on true stories with a mostly non-professional cast (including actual prostitutes) and shot on the streets, train stations, and sex clubs of Prague.
An elegantly filmed and complex vision of young men finding their way in a new world order. --The Lux, London
This deliriously hyperventilating drama recounts a teen boy's tragic descent into prostitution, violence and drugs. --TLA Video
A riveting, brutally honest portrayal of teen male prostitution in Prague. --Variety
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The film depicts this hell on earth world in a frightening constant flow of crisis after crisis for 15 year old Marek. He pairs up with an older male prostitute, David, who is his mentor in crime, drugs, and sex. He also emotionally attaches to David but David has little to give and is a runaway addict himself. The violence depicted against children was horrific, possibly the worst thing i have ever seen on film.
The scenes where the boys are making porno films was incredible chaos. The film-maker is violent and threatening to the rent boys as he demands they become erect. This is a most telling scene about the relationship between sexual orientation, sexual behavior, and the need for some form of human intimacy to remain sane.
The film is not about gay entertainment and escapism, it is anything but a gay fantasy. It is however a horrific picture of man's cruelty and explotation to those who are more vulnerable.
The film is guaranteed to be one of the most disturbing...one of the most heartbreaking, yet one of the most worthwhile gay flicks you're likely ever to experience. I watched it spellbound via Netflix a few days ago and -- despite the fact I may never again be able to sit through its uncompromising portrayal of despair on the part of its pathetic protagonist -- I knew this was a film I had to own, simply (if nothing else) for the sake of owning it.
My keen recommendation aside, I urge you to beware and think twice before deciding to watch MANDRAGORA. The ironic twist at the end is positively devastating and may leave a bitter and indelibly haunting afterimage on the overly sensitive.
This drama follows 15-year-old Marek, beginning when he steals a jacket from a store front and catches a train to Prague. Later a scene is shown which gives a hint at the family life he was running away from, which did not seem that bad. In Prague Marek is quickly picked up by a local pimp who drugs him and allows a customer to break him in. From there Marek's life is a downward spiral of sex, drugs and violence.
My main problem with this film is that it takes a lifestyle that is bad and seems to set out to make it seem even worse. I saw the documentary with the real male prostitutes in Prague. Their life is bad, but they are performing sex acts for their customers, getting paid, and going on with their lives. In this film I don't think Marek ever performed a sex act he had agreed to, collected his money and left. He was tricked, drugged, raped, doubled crossed, abused, tortured, and disfigured. The truth for these young men is bad enough, they did not need to go overboard with it. This film also has more nudity than the documentary, and is more graphic with its sex.
The story is simple (and almost cliché for cinema, but not for real life). Teenage boy (Marek) is fed up with school and his single father; who, incidently, obviously only wants his boy to have a better life than he. Marek becomes a local punk/hoodlum and, in fact, the movie begins with his breaking into a store display window. Still, the father even takes extra measures to deal with authority figures after his son's mischieviousness.
Regardless, Marek runs away on a train to Prague and, upon leaving the train, is targeted for induction into the seedy underworld of prostitution in Prague. He's drugged, molested, paid...and in with the game. He soon befriends David, who has high business hopes, but little experience to see them to fruition. David helps free him of the pimp that found him at the train station. Oh...and it should be mentioned that the drama includes no actual prostitution or [simulated] sex. In fact, they soon have 30,000 czech crowns,and you literally have to assume they got it through prostitution.
All along, we see their adventures through Marek's eyes. The bars, the prostitution, understanding the pimps and the johns...all of these things are matters of course. They move from being initial 'rabbits' (newcomers/fresh) to professionals, to entrepreneurs and ultimately into pornography.
The movie is often slow. It actually takes 35 minutes for Marek to realize that he's becoming a prostitute...the actual point of the movie. On top of that, the images are generally dark and the translations are poorly done. In many cases, you often wonder what the heck they meant by certain statemtents. Also, the continuity is horrible. You never really know when and/or where they are in the story. Then, suddenly they are sick with AIDS...after what seems like days or a few short weeks. (While AIDS takes months to physically effect the body)
Most unfortunate is that this movie is almost Plageuristic (?) of Wictor Grodecki's own earlier work "Body Without Soul." He simply added actors acting out some of the scenes from the documentary...
The only truly GOOD part of the movie was played by the father. He showed true emotion, longing, etc. that indicated that 'this is a man who is desperately seeking his son.' He learns what his son has become and goes after the boy. And, one of the few really great scenes in the movie involves him (toward the very end).
I suggest you RENT this one and buy "Body Without Soul." It's more honest and true...and you'll appreciate the story and the concept more.