At the weekend our first severe caning film was released. We've had hard canings before, of course - Caning Merit Badge and Caned in Jodhpurs spring to mind - but "severe caning" is pretty much a genre in itself, usually referring to judicial strength cold canings of 30, 40, 50 strokes or more. It seems to be particularly common amongst the Eastern European producers such as Lupus (whom Adele Haze has worked with), Mood Pictures and Pain4fem (which is the studio with whom I filmed my only judicial level caning to date).
It's a controversial genre, with a lot of anxiety and misinformation about both the consent of the spankees and the wisdom and health concerns of this level of physical severity. Most professional spanking performers only indulge in this sort of scene occasionally, due to the healing time required afterwards, and the fact that very few people have the desire to play at this level frequently - for most of us it's an occasional adventure, not a regular thing.
German spanking bloggers Ludwig and Kaelah have more direct experience with the severe caning genre than most. Ludwig has topped for both Lupus and Mood, and is well known for his detailed shoot reports, dispelling the myths and horror stories with his matter of fact honesty about the realities of production. Ludwig's partner Kaelah does not share his kink for this level of severity, but nonetheless she was deeply curious about the experience. She decided to confront her fears and undergo such a caning herself, so that she could have an informed opinion about what it was like for the performers she had seen in other films.
The pair had previously shot a homemade film of Kaelah taking a severe 50 stroke caning, but Kaelah was not entirely satisfied with the results. She wanted to revisit the theme with a professional producer, to create a film she could be truly proud of.
Together they conceived the idea of a martial arts student ready to progress to the next level of her training, about to go on a life-changing journey to study with new, stricter teachers. She chooses to participate in a final inurement practice to prove to herself and others that she has the strength of character to endure such rigorous training. This test is not mandatory; rather she volunteers to undertake it, for her own reasons.
Kaelah and I both love the concept of severe corporal punishment undertaken consensually, with honour and self-discipline. As an experienced tai chi practitioner Kaelah was able to bring her physical skill and grace to the screen with a breathtaking performance that underpins her courage and self-control during the caning itself.
The resulting film, The Final Test, is strongly performer-driven. Two behind the scenes documentaries supplement the main feature, and both Kaelah and Ludwig have written in-depth blogposts about the experience of creating the film in their own words. Kaelah wrote, "I have seldom been as happy with a scene as I was and am with this one." You can read more about Kaelah's decision to embark upon this journey in her blog posts Healthy Severity, The Final Test: Preparations and The Final Test: Shoot Report.
The Final Test is focussed on the rite of passage of Kaelah's character, and the way she draws on her training and inner strength to endure the experience. Fifty full force cane strokes delivered straight from cold are not for the faint-hearted. But as you will see, Kaelah is anything but.
Physically, it's the most severe scene to be published on this site to date. This photo was taken a few hours after the shoot, by which point the deep bruising is already visible. The welts are dramatic and beautiful, a must-see for marks fetishists, but perhaps beyond the comfort zone of many spanking enthusiasts.
This physical severity is why the consensual storyline, the emphasis on Kaelah's strength of will, and the behind the scenes material in which she explains her motivation for doing the shoot are all so important to me.
The Final Test achieves a lot of the goals I had in mind when creating Dreams of Spanking, and I am very proud of it. The things I love about this film are many, but here are just some of them:
- The severity. This is actually the level of corporal punishment I fantasise about most of them time, although it's not practical to indulge in real life very often. Despite the asexual nature of the scene, and my cerebral focus on the technicalities of editing, I found myself physically aroused at the end of each working day while I was working on this film. Hey, I guess I must have some sort of corporal punishment fetish.
- The strength of will shown by Kaelah's character. She's not submissive; she's totally in control of herself and of her situation throughout the film. It's inspiring for those of us who aren't straightforwardly submissive but still enjoy hard corporal punishment.
- The focus on the performer's desires and motivations. Ludwig and Kaelah were closely engaged at every stage of the process. They wrote the storyline, which draws on Kaelah's tai chi skills in a highly personal, non-verbal and intimate way. The production as a whole is about Kaelah's emotional journey - both her character's rite of passage, and, in a way, her own in realising her ambition to have positive memories of shooting a consensual severe scene. The behind the scenes documentaries describe her motivations, reactions, thoughts and feelings throughout. I would love to see other severe producers picking up on this and releasing similar behind the scenes material with their films - when creating edgy, extreme or uncomfortable porn there are few better ways of facilitating transparency and trust.
- Speaking of Kaelah's motivations, I found them complex and interesting. Her reasons for acting out this scene herself were not sexual; the shoot wasn't an erotic experience for her. Her vision for the film was informed by what she finds erotic to watch (ie. consensual scenarios, restrained reactions) but in bringing this idea to life her motivations were creative, not hedonistic. The sensations, extreme as they were, were simply a means to an end. I can identify with this to some extent, and I think it makes her perspective really unusual; her joy and satisfaction in this scene are not those of a thrill-seeker, but someone enduring physical suffering for the sake of long-term emotional gratification. Rather like her character!
- Kaelah and Ludwig are both very much on the same page as me when it comes to transparency in ethical porn. They favour informed, enthusiastic consent and scenes in which the performers are expressing something true and heartfelt about themselves. They are thoughtful and articulate in their advocacy of these ideas, and the accompanying behind the scenes documentaries really benefit from their ability to express themselves clearly (in a second language, no less!). As you will see, the couple took a lot of care to construct the scene so as to create the genuinely severe film they wanted, without compromising Kaelah's emotional wellbeing or causing needless physical damage.
- Finally, I am entranced by the beauty, grace and skill Kaelah shows in her tai chi sequences. She moves with the fluency and control that comes from years of experience. It's a joy to watch. (It's also very sexy - physical skill and grace both being extremely attractive!) Compare her movements and breathing during the tai chi katas with the way she uses her breath during the caning, using her exhales to ride the pain and retain absolute self-control throughout. The result is an awe-inspiring demonstration of physical discipline and inner strength.
I was a bit nervous about including the meditative tai chi cutaways during the caning scene, but I felt the caning was somehow too plain without it. I wanted to find a way to raise it to another level. It was a bit of a risk to interpolate martial arts shots into a corporal punishment scene, but I think it paid off. One reviewer has already said he appreciated the breaks from the intensely harsh caning. Personally, I find the tai chi sequences make the caning more intense by calling attention to the level of meditative focus required to endure it, and by creating a greater emotional engagement and empathy with Kaelah's character. They also provide a concentration break which renews your appreciation for the severity, the change of scene preventing you from getting used to the force of the strokes.
The Final Test is released with two behind the scenes documentaries. In Part 1, 'Preparations', Kaelah discusses her motivations for embarking on her second severe 50 stroke caning film (her first with a professional producer). She and Ludwig talk about their thoughts and feelings prior to the shoot, where their idea for the storyline came from, and what they hope to achieve by creating this film. The couple also describe the medical precautions they are taking prior to the caning, and share their decision-making processes regarding the table, cane and position selected for the whipping. Kaelah and Tom practice some tai chi katas prior to the shooting of Kaelah's solo fan sequence.
In Part 2, 'Making Of', Kaelah and Ludwig talk about their feelings immediately before filming commences, and we share intimate out-takes and behind the scenes footage from the severe caning sequence itself. Kaelah controls the pace of the scene and takes the pauses she needs, and even laughs and jokes between shots. Afterwards, Kaelah and Ludwig give a final interview describing their immediate reactions to the scene. Part 2 ends with out-takes from Kaelah's solo tai chi katas, and a closer look at the sword form.
It was an honour to be chosen to make Kaelah and Ludwig's dream a reality. The Final Test has already been reviewed by The Blog of Fred and Nimue Allen. I'm thrilled with the finished film and by the positive reception so far. Here's to more fairtrade severe caning films!