Rebellion in the Brothel – Trafficking in Women around 1900

It’s spring 1902 in Vienna. The working-class girl Marie König runs away from her physically abusive father and right into the arms of an agent who lures her into a luxury brothel. Instead of the independent life they’d promised her, with „carriage rides and silk dresses”, she is faced with locked doors, violence and exploitation. Three years later, Marie wants to “quit this business”. She confides her story to the journalist Emil Bader, who makes the dire conditions in the brothel public and takes Regine Riehl, the owner of the brothel, to court.

Director Stefan Ludwig reconstructs the courtroom drama surrounding the Riehl trial with the help of drama scenes, precisely played by a first-rate cast including Maria Hofstätter, Markus Schleinzer and Alice Prosser. The Riehl process took place in 1906 and stirred up the public well beyond Vienna. Following the case with a combination of voyeurism and pity, the public caught a detailed glimpse into the living conditions of the prostitutes and heatedly debated the role of the corrupt vice squad.

Around 1900, the business of prostitution didn’t boom in Vienna alone: At the time, young women from Europe worked in brothels all around the world, but mostly in immigration countries such as Argentina and Brazil. And in many cases, they were forced to do it. In the debates of the day, they were usually stereotyped as “loose girls” or victims. But in the past few years, they have been given a more nuanced treatment. The American historian Nancy Wingfield has proved that the women very often rebelled and actively fought to improve their conditions – just like the women from Salon Riehl.

To be broadcast on ORF/NDR/Arte in 2024


Maria Hofstätter
Markus Schleinzer
Alice Prosser
Christoph Radakovits
Julia Wozek
Fanny Altenburger
Gina Christof
Clemens Aap Lindenberg
Franz Weichenberger
Alexandra Maria Timmel
Rainer Doppler
Benjamin Turecek

Written and Directed By
Stefan Ludwig

Co-author / historical consulting
Nancy Wingfield

Kurt Maximilian Frank

Assistant director

Alice Stengl

Carolina Steinbrecher

Camera Operator (drama sequences)
Angelika Spangel
Sebastian Arlamovsky

Costume and production design
Christian Gschier
Lotte Lyon
Belinda Winkler
Christine Winkler

Lukas Swatek
Laurenz Gensthaler

Sergey Martynyuk

Karin Ruthardt
Chrissi Akbaba

Robert Zapletal


Martina Poel

Production managers
Selina Nenning
Bernhard Schmatz
Teresa-Saija Wieser

Markus Glaser
Michael Kitzberger
Wolfgang Widerhofer
Nikolaus Geyrhalter

A Production By
NGF – Nikolaus Geyrhalter Filmproduktion GmbH

in co-production with

With the support of
Fernsehfonds Austria
Filmfonds Wien
ORF Enterprise