As one of the first, if not the first, explicitly queer themed film to come out of (West) Germany, Taxi zum Klo is a lost classic, which tells us much about society at the beginning of the 1980s. Followed by a string of, albeit less well known, queer films Taxi zum Klo is perhaps less famous than the East German offering, Coming Out (1989) – however this first screened on the night the Berlin Wall fell, which probably helped it secure it this place.
Mostly autobiographical and filmed non-professionally by a team of Frank Rippioh’s friends Frank tells the story of himself, a gay teacher in 1980s West Berlin. For Frank sex plays an all-encompassing role in his life and this is not shied away from on screen (hence the certificate ‘18’ rating).
Taxi zum Klo studies many different themes, mainly the concept of sexuality and the definition of sexuality. Frank struggles with the boxes people, including his partner Bernd, continue to put him in. He wants the relationship that Bernd offers him, but he also wants to explore himself sexually and not live in a routine – at one point he becomes enraged when Bernd calls him home for his dinner. The film is (in)famous for its risqué sex scenes, even by today’s standards. At times the film slips into pornography (Interior Leather Bar?), perhaps most famously the watersports scene. In this respect, this may not be a first step into queer cinema, certainly if it is your parents you are introducing to queer classics.
Despite the amateur nature of this film, the camera work has a certain beauty to it. One scene sees Frank cruising in the depths of winter, and in the background you see Berlin’s famous Siegessäule, or Victory Column. Not only is this an interesting image, juxtaposing the city to Frank’s sexuality, but also Siegessäule is now actually the name of one of Berlin’s queer publications. On another level this could be cryptic innuendo, or juxtaposition to Imperial Germany and its suppression of anything that wasn’t ‘manly’ in the early 1900s.
The film is often quite intense to watch, but there is something deeply interesting about the film; maybe it’s the risqué nature, maybe it is the characters, or maybe it is the production work. Honestly, I think it is the way it handles the topic of sexuality so openly and freely – something that Berlin has continued to do to this day. There are interesting juxtapositions to his school life and the lives of his fellow teachers, but also to the prostitute in the STI clinic. These juxtapositions continue throughout and are often layered over other scenes to juxtapose them further. Most important though are the scenes when Frank drives through the city while we hear his stream of consciousness – these scenes reveal Frank’s desires, thoughts and concerns at a most intimate level. Overall this seems to be an unsung hero of queer cinema and a relic from a time when in many countries in Europe homosexuality was only just legal. (Homosexuality was decriminalised in West Germany in 1969, and in 1968 in the East).
(I do not own this image)