Movie Review - Harvest (Stadt Land Fluss)

Lukas Steltner (left) & Kai-Michael Muller
in "Harvest (Stadt Land Fluss)"
Stadt Land Fluss is the Award-winning, German film that premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival. TLA Releasing bought the film and played it regionally at Philadelphia Qfest. The English title is Harvest, but literally translated Stadt Land Fluss means "City Country River,' the reverse order of places where this movie takes you.

Lukas Steltner plays Marco, a lanky, short-haired blonde who is shy, has family problems and apparently can't write. He has an apprenticeship at a farm in or near Brandenburg. There, he learns how to write and especially how to be a farmer.

Kai-Michael Muller plays Jakob, a tall, curly-haired brunette who left his training as a banker to also work as an apprentice at the same Brandenburg farm. Jakob seems more sure than Marco about being at the farm or at least about wanting to be at the farm. Even though he's new to it all, Jakob takes to farming easily and quickly with only a few short stumbles along the way.

It takes about an hour of screen time though before the two young boys kiss. After that, their love affair plays out in only fifteen minutes or so with no hint of external homophobia to hinder them. There is some hesitation on Marco's behalf about pursuing this relationship openly, but that just seems more the result of his own shyness.

This is not a Brokeback Mountain situation, though writer-director Benjamin Cantu does employ a very similar shot as to one Ang Lee did. Marco and Jakob go to Lake Lehmkieten to hang out. Jakob is sitting next to the lake's edge when Marco emerges from the water. Jakob's profile is in the foreground while Marco's entire shirtless body can be seen in the background. It's an image that Stadt Land Fluss mirrors from Brokeback.

But, that's where the mirroring ends. Most depictions of men who fall in love with other men normally take place in cities and suburbs. Hardly any are set in rural areas with characters who actually want to stay in the rural areas. Cantu provides a template for potential stories about gay farmers, but more of a template than anything else.

Stadt Land Fluss harkens the early works of David Gordon Greene, Gus Van Sant or Larry Clark where Cantu is less telling a story in traditional narrative ways than he's more trying to show you a portrait of a place and people. Cantu has said in interviews that he's more of a documentarian. Besides Steltner and Muller, everyone and everything else in this movie are real places and people that Cantu merely documents.

The Brandenburg farm in question is a real farm with real apprenticeships that Cantu integrated into his movie rather well. He mostly doesn't invent scenarios but simply shows the reality going on there. One sequence involves Jakob being taken into the cow pasture and having a woman named Holger place an ear tag on a calf. Holger is the woman's real name. She's not an actress. Cantu merely threw Muller into the situation and filmed what naturally occurred.

Stadt Land Fluss is German for city country river and with Cantu's first image, he shows not a river but the naturally occurring refreshment that a river could bring with a simple shot of a water sprinkler. He shows us the naturally occurring farming demands of the country with various shots of the boys at work, and he finally takes his characters to the city where they can explore the equally, naturally occurring love burning between the two of them. It's quiet and it's beautiful.

Three Stars out of Five.
In German with English Subtitles.
Not Rated But Recommend for 13 and Up.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 28 mins.


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