A Non-Person in a Non-Place

in 38th World Film Festival Montreal

by Cüneyt Cebenoyan

Two women in the service industry: one of them cleans and tidies hotel rooms that the other conducts her work in. They do not know each other, even though they frequently cross paths. They may work at the same place, but still they are from very different worlds.

Our protagonist is Lynn, and her object of desire is a prostitute with special skills — Chiara, a dominatrix.

Lynn sees Chiara at the Eden Hotel where she works as a chambermaid. Lynn is a voyeur of a sort; she decides to spy on Chiara. She places herself under the beds of the hotel customers and listens to them talking on the phone to a spouse or mumble to themselves. This time Lynn listens and watches Chiara from under the bed while she tortures her consensual client. This first encounter of the queer kind occurs towards the end of the first half of the film, and it marks a turning point for Lynn.

When we first see Lynn,she is chatting with her psychiatrist. She tells him that she doesn’t trust anything; that she thinks everything is a lie — well, maybe not everything. Later we also learn that she doesn’t understand how her psychiatrist believes in her as well. How does he know that the dream she told him is in fact a real dream? Lynn hardly believes in her own stories.

Lynn has no ego. She doesn’t know who she is — she doesn’t know who anyone is. She doesn’t have borders that define her or contain her ego. But she doesn’t have problems in crossing over other people’s borders. She wants to be somebody, but who will she become? Who are the clients of the hotel? How do they live? What kind of clothes do they wear? How is it to be someone?

They definitely kiss each other when they wake up, right? That must be the thing lovers do. In order to find out she starts to peek into the lives of the hotel clients. First she tries putting on their clothes, later hiding under their beds.

Until that point Lynn’s sex life consists of giving sexual service to her supervisor at the hotel. It doesn’t seems like Lynn enjoys it: she’s only interested if the sexual act was “good” for the man or not. In other words: her own pleasure doesn’t mean anything, as if she is not a person. Even her private life is like the service sector: she serves to others. She is an anonymous woman who works at an anonymous place like a hotel. There is a strong parallel between the place and the person. Lynn is like hotel room with no definite borders, with no particular character — a non-person in a non-place.

Chiara, with her violent S/M acts, shows Lynn who she is. Lynn here is briefly someone: someone who likes to be dominated, who likes to be smacked, who likes to be punished. Someone who likes to be loved as who she is.Ironically, the very act of humiliation becomes an act of emancipation. Lynn becomes herself, Lynn becomes Lynn out of an act which is considered not “normal”. And that’s when Lynn falls in love with Chiara. That’s when she tells her mother “I am another… another person than you think I am.” Now she has a vision of herself. When at the beginning she acted as if she wanted to be invisible, now she wanted to be seen as a distinct person. She wanted to be seen as who she really is. But maybe not. The film leaves us with no easy answers. The protagonist overcomes her troubles and becomes a new person, but not someone we expect from cliché. But maybe everything we saw was a lie as Lynn told us at the beginning — but again, maybe not everything. As Lynn tells us at the end of the film, doesn’t everything become dirty again after cleaning? And isn’t that beautiful?

The Chambermaid Lynn (Das Zimmermädchen Lynn) is a fine film. The acting is overall very good but Vicky Krieps’ performance as the title role is superb. Lena Lauzemis also shines in her role as Chiara.

Edited by Jake Howell