’Free Fall’ :: Coming Out in a German Police Task Force
Some four years ago, budding German filmmaker Stephan Lacant was researching for his first feature film and decided to look into being gay in the police task force. For each of the erotically-charged image of hunky police officers that we see in fantasy-themed photo shoots, pride parades and porn, it is perhaps as easy to find a homophobic incident in the law enforcement environment. For "Free Fall", Lacant's first film, he follows what happens to a young German police officer as he discovers his attraction to men.
In the movie, Marc (Hanno Koffler) is rising fast in the ranks among his law enforcement peers. With Betinna (Katharina Schüttler), his girlfriend, pregnant with their first child, Marc's life seems to be moving in an inevitable direction. But when Kay (Max Riemelt), a transferred officer, enters his life, feelings stir that he never experienced before. Torn between his obligation to his girlfriend and his desire to explore these new sexual desires, Marc's vision of his future becomes more complicated.
Described as the German, contemporary version of Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain," the film has drawn positive reviews. Greg Mitchell of The Gay UK defines the performances from the films cast as superb and praises the film: "It is an engaging and involving movie, beautifully filmed and subtly played out. Lacant directs with a sure hand which is honest and true." Another review from David William Upton of So So Gay rightfully points out that the film, while professionally done, thematically "defaults to tiresome thematic links like homosexuality to drug use muddle the picture. Still, the film's essential thematic debate between desire and loyalty is an easy one for audiences to connect with, and the attraction of Koffler and Riemelt -- both between their characters and for the audience -- gives 'Free Fall' enough fire to remain a worthwhile picture."
EDGE speaks with director Stephan Lacant and actor Hanno Koffler about their roles in this bold German film.
Homophobia in the police force
EDGE: Within the four years from the time you began research to the time you finished making the film, have things changed in Germany? Is homophobia less rampant in the police force?
Stephan Lacant:No, I don’t think so. Within these four years, the situation did not really change much. It also depends on which different area in Germany. For example, I think in Berlin, it’s a little bit easier than for example, if you go to the south of Germany. It was very interesting because when the film was released in Paris, and we had the president of the Gay and Lesbian Police Officers Association of France there (tell) us it is the same thing in France. There is also a problem with this sort of homophobic atmosphere against gay colleagues.
EDGE: What did you learn when you were making ’Free Fall?’
Stephan Lacant:When we started this project, I was not sure of homophobia in our society still being a really a big issue. But we researched all over the place. We talked to mothers whose sons turned gay at some point or to guys who fell in love with another man later in their lives who already have children. We tried to get a very complex view of it all and discovered that homophobia is really an issue throughout the society. When it really comes down to their own lives, some people really have a problem with it. Maybe when they are talking about other people, they can be liberal about it, maybe it is not such a big deal; but once it really concerns their own lives, they really start to have problems with it.
Hanno Koffler: The whole story was really, really well written. I could believe all the relations between the characters, mostly between the main characters. It was the story of a love triangle, the girlfriend and the two policemen. It was so strong, the relations between them (that) I could believe them. I was totally moved by the character of Marc. For me, it was always kind of an instinct decision; I could understand him, in the way of how he behaves. He is not a man who uses a lot of words when he is in a crisis. I could understand that. For me, it was a feeling that I have to play.
The self discovery process
EDGE: Your character, Marc, had to go through this process of discovering himself. How did you explore playing this transformation?
Hanno Koffler: He is still in the process of changing even at the end of the movie. The whole movie is like an inside view of his character and how the character is finding himself, facing the kind of truth of his character. That is what the movie is about. So, a lot of people are discussing about the end of the movie. A lot of people are saying, ’I need a happy ending.’ Maybe especially in America, I don’t know; but for me, there is a lot of hope in the end. Marc goes through the process of finding out the really important truth of himself, that is the journey of finding himself. At the start of the movie, Marc cannot breathe; but in the end, he is able to.
EDGE: What are the challenges you faced playing this part?
Hanno Koffler: Playing the role of Marc was an intensive journey. One challenge was to make the love between the two men credible and strong without using many words! Marc is a man who is not able to speak easy about his feelings, especially while he is in the middle of a self -discovery process and inside a big existential crisis. It was also a challenge to show how he is struggling between, on one hand, his idea of an ordinary life as a father and family man; and on the other hand, the new exciting feelings for another man. Marc tries to keep everything together and yes, in a way he wants to have everything, but in the end this was impossible. It was a challenge to make this inner fight of Marc understandable and keep the sympathy for his character. He doesn’t want to hurt anybody, but unfortunately he hurts everybody.
The other thing is that we tried to tell a story for everybody, not only a gay and lesbian audience, we tried to tell a story for a big audience. I wish that a heterosexual man with his girlfriend maybe see the film and afterwards he starts to think about if this could happen to him, too. That would be great.
Finding the right chemistry
EDGE: Is this your first gay-themed movie?
Hanno Koffler: I did a movie a couple of years before -- called ’Sommerstorm (Summer Storm).’ That is a coming out story of a teenager. Marco Kreuzpaintner directed the movie and I played a supporting role, a self-assured gay guy, called Malte. He is a very strong character, feeling absolutely comfortable with his sexuality. He is a seducer and entertaining guy. His favorite game is making straight men queer. It was really fun playing this part.
EDGE: Hanno, how did you establish chemistry and trust with Max, your co-star?
Hanno Koffler: Max and I have known each other for 11 years. ’Free Fall’ is the third movie we made together. The year before the shooting of ’Free Fall,’ we did a film in Morocco where we had just a great time and we become really good friends. The chemistry between us was perfect. Our friendship and being aware that we respect the work of each other and appreciate each other as actors was a great precondition for our work in ’Free Fall.’
Stephan Lacant: Working with the actors was not really a difficulty because they were really passionate about the project and engaged themselves in the roles and that was really helping a lot.
EDGE: How did you handle the intimate scenes?
Hanno Koffler: Stephan Lacant is a great director. He knew exactly what he wanted to tell and to show. We read through all the scenes and spoke a lot about the relationships of all the characters. We also spoke about the sex scenes and about what we want to tell, show and how we want to do that. We trusted him, and honestly, on the set, Max and I had a bottle of vodka and then we jumped into ’free fall.’
The German ’Brokeback Mountain’
EDGE: You must have heard about the comparison of ’Free Fall’ to ’Brokeback Mountain.’ What do you make of it?
Stephan Lacant:(laughs) I heard it quite a few times. In a way, it does not really bother me because I think ’Brokeback Mountain’ is a really good film, but when we were making the movie, (But) I did not have ’Brokeback Mountain’ in mind, it was never a thought of making a German copy of it. We just went with our characters and really tried to tell a love triangle story. It was really funny because when you have a heterosexual triangle, there is no comparison to thousands of heterosexual triangle films and when you make something like a gay triangle, it is always going to be compared to ’Brokeback Mountain.’ I think our film is quite different, although it tells the story about somebody being married and falling in love with another man, that is some kind of similarity, but in a way, I think we tell a much more modern story of it, that is set in our time. It also deals with a different feeling.
EDGE: What do you hope viewers will take away from this movie?
Stephan Lacant:I am very passionate about making movies. I put my whole energy into making a film with the hope that it can maybe change a few minds. What I really hope for is for people to not think about categories of people, like homosexuals or heterosexuals. It is like you fall in love with another person, it is about putting someone in that drawer. That would be nice if people are more open minded in that sense.
"Free Fall" is currently available digital and on DVD from Wolfe Video. http://wolfereleasing.com/info/title/free-fall/