Louise and Martine Fokkens, 70-year-old identical twins from Amsterdam, began working as prostitutes in their twenties, when they were forced into the red-light district by Louise’s abusive husband. Dressed in dominatrix gear, they occupied the window displays shopped by Netherlander johns for the next 50 years. Martine is still working the window with a steady clientele, while Louise, who retired from sex work following an arthritis diagnosis, paints naive pictures in her tiny apartment, shops for groceries, and cooks for her sister. In the inexcusably titled Meet the Fokkens, directors Rob Schröder and Gabrielle Provaas capture some un-pretty details of spankings, HJs, and dominance scenarios, but the film is about two old ladies, still cackling despite the sadness that trailed in the wake of the lives into which they were forced. The sisters’ lives prior to their shared history of broken families, shuttered businesses, and financial hardship is documented in old photos and home movies in which we’re shown two lovely young women in the earliest and most hopeful stage of young adulthood. In their thirties, Louise and Martine opened an independent brothel and, with their outsized charisma, reigned over their neighborhood as popular, locally famous personalities. Ultimately driven out by organized criminals and corrupt government officials, they returned to working the windows for the next 40 years. They visit the district with the filmmakers and reminisce with old friends, including one they call “Horse Face” behind her back, as well as the beat cop who patrolled the street back in the day. But mostly, they joke and laugh together, conveying the idea that a hard road is best traveled with your closest friend.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 8, 2012