Stephan Lacant examines the German police force as one of those last bastions where a form of close-minded masculinity continues to breed. Femininity is barely accepted but homosexuality is not mentioned even in whispers, not without schoolboy sensibilities anyway. Lacant throws a cat amongst the pigeons and asks systemic questions about the police force’s reaction to a gay officer whilst simultaneously telling a personal story of conflict and reflection. A tale that is gripping and beautifully told, simple yet complexly analyses the multifaceted issues at hand.
Free Fall begins with no hesitance. As a group of trainee riot police run their paces around the track their heavy breathing is the dominant sound and their heaving chests move in unison. One lean participant sprints past another giving him a knowing smile. The smile is given by Kay Engel (Max Riemelt), a frustrated look is returned from Marc Borgman (Hanno Koffler). Through Engel’s sheer persistence the two become friends, yet the bond is laced with unsubtle inferences. By placing the two men together alone and often Lacant displays the confidence in Engel and the anxiety and conflict of Borgman.
The two men become obsessed with each other’s company but Borgman has a life outside the police force with his pregnant partner Bettina (Katharina Schuttler). Pushing aside the platonic connection Engel makes his move on an accepting but immediately regretful Borgman, jettisoning the two from their comfortable longing and tearing the veil hanging over Borgman’s other life. He comes from a police family, letting Lacant pose the question of sexuality being a choice amongst men of the force. The crisp direction focuses intently on faces looking for any hint of conflict, knowing, pain, almost every shot is desperately searching for a glance into minds and souls.
The opening act of the films chooses not to focus on the wider implications of homosexuality being hidden in society but analyses the more personal story. Lacant captures electric scenes between the two lovers. As Borgman is kissed by Engel for the first time he looks unsure as whether to kiss back or hit him. A rain-soaked sequence heralds a moment of realisation and release, the two are finally themselves and the ever watching gaze of Lacant captures the minute changes in Borgman’s demeanour. The two bask in sunset as their relationship blossoms behind the wall of ignorance Borgman has erected between them and his family.
As Engel is forced to come out at the police station the final act of Free Fall begins amidst a torrent of abuse from other officers. We see the distrust in the eyes of colleagues and eventually suspicion arises in Borgman’s family. The entire story descends into confusion while Lacant constructs a tale denouncing the need to hide yourself from others, it is never an option. Borgman goes through the brutal struggle of reassessing himself, trying to find his rightful place in a society that begins to scorn him.
Free Fall ends as it began. The heavy breathing and heaving chests march in unison around the track. We see Borgman again, serious and stern. This time he begins to outsprint them all, exhilaration takes over as a wide grin spreads across his face. Whatever the outcome of his story, he is now free, he is no longer forced to hide among the pack.
Free Fall is available on DVD from the 27th January courtesy of Peccadillo Pictures