DVD Review - Free Fall

Hanno Koffler (left) and Max Riemelt
in a scene from "Free Fall (Freier Fall)"
This is a German version of Brokeback Mountain, but instead of a pair of cowboys in the 1970s, it's present-day police officers. Like the Oscar-winning, Ang Lee film, this movie attempts to break or shatter the stereotype that wants to separate in people's minds this masculine or macho ideal from the possibility of a gay man ever inhabiting said ideal. When people thought of cowboys, they never thought that a gay man could be that. Same for cops! Some people don't want to imagine a gay man being that or even being capable of being that.

Hanno Koffler stars as Marc Borgmann, a cadet at the police academy. He trains as hard as he can, but he initially falls behind running laps on a track, almost as if something is either physically or emotionally holding him back, and it's not just because of his smoking habit. He has a pregnant wife whom he has to support and a lot of pressure.

Max Riemelt co-stars as Kay Engel, a fellow police cadet who adds to Marc's pressure. It's obvious there's an attraction between the two. Anytime Marc falls behind or is reluctant to do something, Kay teases or pokes Marc by calling him a "pussy." This instantly spurs Marc into doing it, but Kay almost exists as a beautiful, blonde temptation, not un-like the serpent pulling "Adam" out of paradise. Essentially, Kay is pulling on Marc, but it's out of a fool's paradise, a fake heterosexual one.

Hopefully, the irony is not lost on director and co-writer Stephan Lacant when Marc and Kay's first encounter occurs off a jogging path in the woods. Many gay films have used the woods or nature as the location for sexual hookups between two men, but a Garden of Eden aspect hangs over Lacant's initial moments. Yet, this movie is not about Biblical references or even faith.

Those who are homophobic in this movie never cite their reasons as coming from a place of religion. Marc's parents object because what Marc is doing is essentially adultery, regardless of it being gay or straight. Marc's father says he didn't raise his son to be this way, which could be outright homophobic. It's typical code language for such.

The fellow cops' objections seem to come from a place of pure homophobia. Either they're disgusted or they potentially feel threatened. Katharina Schüttler who plays Marc's wife Bettina is the only one who has any legitimate right to feel threatened or any kind of negative feelings about Marc's affair with Kay. A very revealing shower scene though proves that while she might be bothered by the fact her husband had an affair, she might be willing to look past the fact that it was with a man.

Nominated for the Teddy Award at the Berlin International Film Festival and winner of the Jury Prize for Best Feature at Philadelphia's Qfest 2013, this film is swept along by the sheer power and chemistry between Koffler and Riemelt. They display such passion and such lustful attraction. Yet, unlike Lee's film, Lacant's point-of-view is not on balance. The story he's telling is not a too-hander.

The release of Koffler's character, or Marc's ability to run free and ahead of the others, is the sole focus. Riemelt's character and his despair or desperation are not as on-display as Jake Gyllenhaal's Jack Twist. Lacant's film comes from a singular point-of-view, which is arguably worse.

Yet, isolation of point-of-view is purposeful to convey certain emotions. In Stranger By the Lake, it's done so to convey fear and mystery. In this film, I suspect it's to convey a feeling perhaps similar to the one suggested by the title, a feeling rushing through Koffler's character, that of free fall, so limiting the film to strictly his POV would in fact be vital.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but contains full-frontal nudity and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 40 mins.

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