Hanno Koffler, Max Riemelt, Katharina Schüttler
(Kurhaus Production and Südwestrundfunk (SWR))
US DVD: 4 Mar 2014
Free Fall (2013) has been dubbed the German Brokeback Mountain (2005) by Wolfe Releasing, the company responsible for giving Free Fall its DVD release. Wolfe Releasing also situates the film within “a new wave of powerful German cinema,” a statement that only holds if you situate every contemporary German film within this new wave. As excited as I was to discover Free Fall, which was never theatrically released in the United States, the result is a middling drama that fails to resonate with the viewer.
This is a first-time effort from Stephan Lacant, a filmmaker who shows promise but whose talent is unfortunately wasted on this conventional plot. Free Fall depicts an affair between Marc (Max Reimelt), a police cadet with a pregnant wife, and Kay (Hanno Koffler), another cadet on his team. I suppose the difference between the plot of Free Fall and other films, and the reason why Wolf Releasing picked it up, is that it revolves around an affair between two men. However, this alone does not make the film revolutionary, nor does it elevate its significance within the cinematic medium or the culture at large.
In many ways, Blue is the Warmest Color (2013) is everything Free Fall should have been. They both tell similar stories about a young person’s sexual awakening with a member of the same sex, but the former attempts to expand the cinematic form, whereas the latter merely borrows from previous films that illustrate the same themes more competently.
Consider this scene in Free Fall. Marc has been concealing his affair from Bettina (Katharina Schüttler), his pregnant wife, and his cell phone rings during an intimate breakfast. At first, Marc ignores the call, but when Bettina encourages him to answer, he takes the call in another room and whispers silently to Kay that he can’t talk. The camera remains on Bettina’s face, who can hear the whispers and suspects something is wrong. I’m fairly certain that this is one of the most overused narrative devices in cinema history, and that by this point, Marc would have at least seen enough movies to know not to take the call in another room, not to whisper suspiciously while Bettina sits at the breakfast table, and not to return to breakfast like nothing has happened.
This is just one example. There are similar scenes like this, and as the film progresses, the viewer becomes increasingly aware that infidelity and affairs are rarely depicted on screen in a sophisticated manner. Moreover, when the film does captivate, as during the scenes between Marc and Kay, we are quickly taken back to Marc’s domestic life and his relationship with Bettina, and the clichés continue to pile up. The committed performances from Reimelt, Koffler, and Schüttler can’t save the film from itself.
This is not to say that Free Fall won’t find an audience on DVD. Academics who specialize in queer cinema, for instance, might benefit from watching this one, but only because they should be studying every LGBT-related film. In regards to this point, I am reminded of my junior year as a university student. I enrolled in a course on queer cinema, and watched many of the important LGBT-related films, beginning with The Boys in the Band (1970) and ending with Milk (2008). This remains one of the most enlightening film courses I’ve taken, but I was surprised to find that for every Parting Glances (1986) and Get Real (1998), there’s a Bar Girls (1994) and Latter Days (2003) waiting on the other side.
Unfortunately for most viewers,Free Fall aligns more closely with misfires like Bar Girls, and those interested in great cinema would be better off revisiting Brokeback Mountain or watching more recent LGBT-related films like Weekend (2011) and Keep the Lights on (2012).