“Daniel’s World” (“Danieluv svet”)
Student, Writer, Pedophile
Daniel is a writer, a student and a gay male who is open about his sexuality. He is also in love and a pedophile. His story is one of forbidden love and how he deals with it. Pedophilia is one of the most taboo subjects in society today and we become defensive, angry and upset when we hear about man/boy love. We have to wonder how can be so unnatural yet also exist in today’s world? Director Veronika Liskova gives us the story of a man who is “normal” even with he way he loves and feels.
This documentary follows 25-year-old Daniel in his everyday life and routine. We watch him doing regular things like preparing a cup of tea and visiting his brother and as he does these things, there is a voiceover of Daniel trying to explain his love for a pre-pubescent boy. He makes it very clear that he wishes to only be friends and that he never acts on his sexual desires. He seeks solace and support from his friends, (who are also pedophiles), on how to cope with his sexuality and not put others in danger. The film attempts to show that there is a difference between a child lover and a child molester. The film is brave and honest as it explores the struggle for acceptance in a society that does not see the difference between love and molestation.
“Daniel’s World” is a brave and honest exploration of pedophilia and the collage of pre-pubescent boys that hangs on Daniel’s wall is upsetting and it acts as a constant reminder of how forbidden and grotesque this attraction is. We see a shot of Daniel and his friends standing outside the gates of a children’s playground and this is the image we are most familiar with. As the documentary moves forward we are asked if we should condemn the men we see because they were born with this desire (if, indeed, they were). We get a look at pedophiles in ways that we have never seen before—we see and hear no stories of child abuse and/or excuses. Here there is just Daniel and his friends searching for an identity while most people feel that they do not deserve one.
Daniel is Czech literature student and while he has no problem with his sexuality, he also has coping mechanisms that help him deal with it. He makes sure that his urges do not cause negative and/or abusive consequences. Daniel is not an active abuser – he wishes no harm on children, does not desire to be sexually active with them, and does not look at child pornography on the Internet. He and his pedophile friends post on discussion forums talking about how to cope with their sexuality without endangering others. While the tone of this film is be non-judgmental that doesn’t mean that certain things we see here do not have a sinister undertone. The film cannot help but carry such a sinister edge. The pictures of the young boys hanging on Daniel’s war is disconcerting as we feel their eyes follow us as we look at it but it is detachable and Daniel can take it down when he has visitors. We see that when the plumber comes to Daniel’s home, the pictures are gone and noticeably so. This shows that this aspect of Daniel’s life is hidden.
The film carries an unpleasant, sinister edge to it. In addition, Daniel’s wall mural depicting the faces of children is also disconcerting, their eyes seemingly following us around the room. This is an important visual motif for the interviews with Daniel in his room, especially as the mural is detachable – when a plumber comes round, it is noticeably absent from the wall, revealing the hidden life that he is forced to live.
Then there is Daniel’s relationship with his friend Misa’s son. He makes it clear that he only wants to be friendly with the boy yet he obsesses over him and wants to see him again and again. It is clear that Líšková is using the documentary to explore where the line is drawn between fantasy and reality, as well as the overarching theme of whether we can condemn Daniel for the way that he is. Because this is a taboo subject that is rarely talked about, the answer is certainly not cut and dry nor black and white. At times we are shocked at how open Daniel is about his sexuality and to the nature of responses he receives. We see when he meets with an organizer of the Prague Pride parade; he is met with understanding and interest rather than outright condemnation. Nevertheless, to expect such replies from the wider community is unlikely ever to happen.
There is no ‘voice of God ‘narration or other means of communicating a directorial point of view here and this works to the strength of the documentary. Instead of that, we are asked to consider our own position towards Daniel’s life, and to confront a topic in a manner rarely met in such terms. Daniel says that “the main thing is that people do talk about it”, and with such an ambitious project, it is likely that people will.
Up till now, this film was met with an overwhelmingly positive response at film festivals where attendees are issued scorecards at the screening and invited to rate the film in a similar way. The audience reaction thus far is sure to provoke further discussion on the subject of identity.