That awkward moment when you realize a woman’s touch just can’t compare to the caress of your bosom cop buddy.
Free Fall as been described as the ‘German Brokeback Mountain,’ a comparison that will have movie fans cheering and homophobes running for the hills. I haven’t seen Brokeback Mountain for years (not since I was twelve or thirteen) but I remember I had a problem with not finding the characters very likable. Free Fall suffers from a same issue, but not to the same extent, and unlike Brokeback Mountain, which is a straight-out tragedy, Free Fall has a dark but redemptive quality to it, and features a realistic but somewhat hopeful and satisfying ending. The actors show enormous potential, and while the characters are often infuriating, they’re also authentic, and their motivations ring alarmingly true throughout.
Marc (Hanno Koffler) is a fresh-faced young cop-in-training whose wife Bettina (Katharina Schüttler) is pregnant, and whose interfering parents are living right next door and are getting a little too involved with the couple’s lives. In the police academy, Marc is paired up with his new roommate Kay (Max Riemelt) and they get into a testosterone-fueled scuffle almost immediately after meeting one another, but reconcile shortly thereafter. Marc is not a particularly great runner, so he and Kay practice by taking jogs together in the woods. One day on one of their excursions together Kay kisses Marc, and Marc reacts with predictable surprise and disgust. But there was something about the kiss; something that makes Marc (who previously never considered himself to be nothing other than a typical, heterosexual man) experience something he’s never felt, something that makes him crave more. And Marc can only disguise his feelings for so long…
I always feel bad for the wives in films like these. In Katharina Schüttler as Bettina we have a strong and determined actress, but due to a script that doesn’t emphasize much on it’s female players her character comes off a little flat. Her main role is to pry (where were you tonight, Marc? What are you playing at, Marc?) and fret while her swollen belly and innocent features give her a kind but vulnerable look. She never really comes into her own or displays any interesting personality traits. Which brings us to the romance between Kay and Marc.
Kay and Marc are both very flawed characters at times, which makes for a fairly interesting dynamic. While Kay tends to be a little aggressive and interferes with Marc’s life, Marc can be appallingly cagey and disloyal, refusing to acknowledge what he is even to the expense of protecting Kay from prejudiced bullies on the work force. The main big bad bully in question is Gregor Limpinski (Senja Lacher,) a somewhat stereotypical but also unfortunately fairly true-to-life sexed-up misogynist and homophobe struggling under the weight of his own machismo. When Kay is discovered to have been going to a gay club, the bullying begins, and Marc doesn’t find the strength to stand up for his lover at the expense of his own reputation til the very end.
Kay and Marc have kind of an aggressive sexually charged thing going, pushing each other and delivering some rough in the throes of passion. Marc has feelings both ways and even enjoys sex with his wife to some extent, but Kay provides him with an experience he never could have thought he’d find so weirdly irresistible. But considering his emotional dishonesty and considerable disloyalty to Kay, it’s a pretty good bet that the relationship will never get past it’s trial period. It’s kind of surprising that Kay puts in the time and energy. Although their relationship isn’t healthy by a long shot, the men actually have good chemistry and a highly potent sense of eroticism going on between them.
The characters and situations presented in this film are fairly realistic, with a genuine vibe and minimal melodrama or blatant tearjerking. Marc’s lack of likability is a bit of a problem. It seems Marc, while not a bad person at heart, has a knack for hurting the people in his life and evading his own moral responsibilities. Free Fall isn’t one of the all-time great gay films (and it’s plot has a bit of a sense of the old been-there-done-that) but it is, as they say, ‘well-done’ and features good performances across the board.
Marc’s sexual ambiguity is another interesting aspect in an all around effective film- can you be a lover of both men and women but show a preference for one at a time considerably after adolescence? Marc’s story is a warning for all those people who make assumptions about their preferences and their part in the bigger picture too early in life, and discover that they made all the wrong decisions. Most people know whether they like men or women from the time they learn to masturbate. For some, it’s harder. Marc reminds us of that, and tells a pretty good story in the process.