Free Fall is an intelligent drama about love, relationships and sexuality which shows how uplifting, life-changing, confusing and complex all three can be.
The film centres on Marc Borgmann, a police officer, undergoing training in a police academy. There, he meets and makes friends with a fellow recruit, Kay Engel. What starts out initially as playful banter and teasing, turns into something more significant and serious as Marc and Kay are attracted to each other, and Kay makes a move. At first Marc is shocked – “Are you crazy?” – but he soon gives way to his feelings for Kay and they embark on a relationship.
Complications arise because Marc is not a single man. He has a long-term girlfriend, Bettina, who is heavily pregnant with their first baby, and the happy couple have just moved into a house next to his parents. Marc and Bettina’s relationship is a happy and fulfilled one, emotionally and sexually.
At first, Marc can keep his relationship with Kay hidden and separate it from his “real” life, because they only see one another at the police academy. However, Marc’s two worlds unexpectedly collide when Kay is transferred to Marc’s police unit and they become work colleagues as well as lovers.
As the relationship between Marc and Kay grows, there are some very tender and beautiful scenes between the two men. Their sex develops from furtive encounters in the forest, where Marc is often filled with shame and guilt, to Kay giving Marc the keys to his flat so that they can spend quality time together.
The drama examines the latent homophobia lying just beneath the surface in a society which is outwardly very liberal and progressive on LGBT rights. This homophobia is present in the home and at work.
Marc’s parents are kind, loving and supportive parents, and the feeling of a very close-knit family is conveyed right at the start of the film as Marc’s father captures Marc and Bettina moving into their new home on his camcorder, and each family member introduces themselves, recording a personal message for the unborn child.
Marc’s mother sees Marc and Kay sharing a kiss. She is shocked, exclaiming to him that “we didn’t raise you to be like that”. In saying this, Marc’s mother dismisses Marc’s love for another man and rejects him. It was heart-breaking. Later on, Marc’s parents warn Kay to leave their son alone and to allow Marc to get on with his life with Bettina and his baby. His parents are blind to the love Marc has for Kay, and vice-versa.
Marc and Kay, as police officers, are working in a very masculine, testosterone-dominated environment and, in certain quarters, homophobia and homophobic comments flourish. The unit find out Kay is gay when he is picked up during a police raid on a gay bar and, whilst management emphasize their equality and diversity policies, stressing it is important not to discriminate, the day-to-day reality of working life is very different.
Kay is regularly mocked and taunted, gibes are commonplace, and he is even assaulted because of his sexuality. The revelation about his sexuality means that he is made to feel unwelcome, treated like an outsider, and is shut out from the easy camaraderie of the unit. He will never be “one of us”, part of the team.
Bettina is a modern woman, she is no fool, and she senses early on that something is wrong as Marc becomes more emotionally and physically distant. There are some moving scenes which convey Bettina’s isolation, her sadness, and her pent-up anger very effectively, including the scene showing her alone at the antenatal class “like a single mother”.
Torn between his love for two people, Kay and Bettina, Marc has to make a choice; and he has to consider his own happiness, Bettina and the baby, Kay, his family and his work. I don’t envy him that “choice”!
Free Fall is a film that explores the long-lasting and far-reaching consequences of an affair, on those directly involved in the love triangle, and on family, friends and colleagues.
I very rarely watch German films and the director and the actors were unfamiliar to me. However, all three main actors forming the love triangle – Hanno Koffler as Marc, Max Riemelt as Kay, and Katharina Schüttler as Bettina – gave exceptional performances and were totally convincing in their respective roles. As a viewer, I felt empathy for all three characters and the very difficult positions they found themselves in.
Special credit has to go to Hanno Koffler, in the lead role of Marc, who gives a very powerful performance of a man who is a tough cop in his work life, but a tender and loving person in his personal life, torn between his love for two people, and trying to hold his life together when it is coming apart at the seams.
In summary, an intelligent and complex drama about love and relationships. Marc finds love when he is not looking for it, and where he least expects it. That love turns Marc’s life upside down and has far-reaching consequences for himself and everyone he loves. A love story that explores the very high price you sometimes have to pay for love.
Free Fall is a German film, directed by Stephan Lacant (who also co-wrote the film). It’s released on DVD in the UK on Monday 27 January.