Director Patric Chiha’s “Brothers of the Night” tells the story of a group of young Bulgarian Roma men, who work as prostitutes in Vienna. They came to Vienna to find freedom and money and they sell their bodies because they have little else. The guys share a feeling of togetherness even if the nights are long and it is impossible to predict what they will bring. This is not the Vienna that we usually see. The guys have come there out of poverty and to make money to help their families. They hang out at a hustler bar called ‘Rüdiger’ in the working class Margareten district. They wait, smoke, drink, play pool, dance, show off, fool around like young bulls and they talk— about their families and prostitutes and among themselves they share stories about the sex work that they do— the ‘bizness’. They have to deal with culture clash and they find themselves on a tight wire between illusion and reality and their lives are transitory, deceptive, and fleeting.
The film opens with a long sequence that gives the setting of the film. We see the Wien River with ships moving against the industrial landscape and this suggests the roughness of what we are about to see. We hear the beauty of Mahler’s fifth symphony and it contrasts with the images we’re seeing. The lives of these hustlers should be painful and filled with memories of their families at home and their inability to make money any other way. Yet their camaraderie and the support they have for each other creates a space in which they can exist happily.
The film is split in two style wise: half is a dramatization, half is documentary. The way the narrative moves backwards and forwards between styles really shows the seriousness of the subject matter. Interviews explain in shockingly apathetic terms what the characters go through, whilst the dramatization explores the emotional depth of their experiences.
The film comes across in a remarkably light-hearted manner, considering its narrative. The brotherhood shared by the young men creates a sharp juxtaposition from the grittiness and unpredictability of their lives. Most came to Austria to find work in an attempt to support their family. We hear from one who tells that even though his German is now perfect, he was fired from his first job because he did not know the language and began begging and prostituting himself shortly afterwards. No message of morality comes through this film and the conversations between the men about their work are given to us without judgment. No moral is needed here—this is simply a stark look at life and of people who have stumbled into something they’d never imagined themselves doing. They are able to get through it because of the bonds they’ve created, much like the rest of us.
When the guys first arrive they can barely speak any German at all and find that, just like back home, there are no jobs for them. They end up providing sexual services to the old gay men who hang out at the bar and the guys realize that they can earn a great deal more than at a legitimate job.
The rent boys are frank and open about the realities of their new lives. All of them are heterosexual and although some are more cautious about how far they will go with their clients—most will receive oral sex but they refuse to give and they seem more disdainful of the fact that their clients are old rather than of their homosexuality that doesn’t seem to cause many of them much worry or bother.
They all look out for each other with genuine concern. They are very much friends even though they may be competing for the same clients and they freely discuss their latest exploits and how much they made. Their aim is to get enough money to buy a house and a car to set themselves up back home in Bulgaria where, even though they are in their early 20’s , they have wives and children. The one who doesn’t is lectured by his friends on how much he must save up to buy a bride, even though they admit that their own marriages are far from happy. One confesses that he had earned a great deal of money and then fell in love with a Austrian hooker who spent all of it and then left him when he was broke again. It seems that they are all discovering how to be wild and free and irresponsible which is something that they had not been allowed to do back home.