Director Luca Ferri introduces us to Bianca Dolce Miele, the subject of his new film The House of Love, in conspicuous fashion. She’s seated, directly facing the camera, gently petting the head of the full grown, dog-masked man down on all fours beside her. It’s a seemingly bold provocation, but as The House of Love unspools what transpires is less a transgressive document than a quiet meditation on identity, the sacred and the profane, and, ultimately, the seeking of solace and comfort. Bianca is a trans woman and sex worker in Milan, and the film sits with her and her clients in the confines of her apartment over the course of a week or so. The camera never leaves this space, giving the endeavor both a delicate scale and a warm sense of envelopment. Bianca keeps the lights low while she’s with clients, and Ferri frequently shoots rooms illuminated only by candle light. But there’s also the everyday, quotidian details that dominate the space and time between clients. There’s grooming, doing laundry, chatting and appointment-making on the phone.
As curious as Bianca’s clients may be, Ferri has no interest in turning the film into a freak show or simply luxuriating in the grotesque. Bianca is certainly non-traditional, using ‘she’ as her preferred pronoun, but also sporting a fully shaved head and comfortable with either male or female clients. Ultimately, the power of the film comes in the presentation of its content as perfectly natural. Ferri shoots each encounter with a client in a different fashion — one scene is a static master shot, another featuring a slowly panning camera that passes back and forth between Bianca and the client, and yet another is all expressionistic close-ups, turning a sexual act into an abstracted collision of writhing bodies. Ferri seems to be suggesting that each session is its own narrative, that every interaction is both unique and part of Bianca’s larger story. The film is not overtly political in any didactic sense, although in our present making a documentary about a trans sex worker is of course deeply political. It’s a kind of radical empathy, a powerful reminder that sex work is work and trans rights are human rights.
Published as part of Berlin International Film Festival 2020 | Dispatch 4.