Der freie Wille (2006) Poster

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8/10
Good Portrayal, Few Explanations
cadmandu14 January 2007
I saw this at the German Film Festival in San Francisco, and having been to a few of these before, I was prepared for a depressing experience. What's with these Germans? Anyway . . . this is a brutal, thorough, carefully crafted portrayal of the tortured life of what Americans call with politically correct blandness a "sex offender." Our protagonist, Theo, is raping his third victim when we meet him. He is a smoldering, violent thug. We next encounter him, 9 years later, as he is released from a mental hospital into a supervised residential setting. He is a broken man. He is riding a beast he hates, and he has no idea when the beast will bite again.

As a portrayal of psychology, angst, subtlety of emotion, and real human relations, I would give this film a 10. The sparring session between Theo, and his budding girlfriend Nettie, is a brilliant display of the subtle forces which are torturing the both of them. The fact that these two people have the sparsest dialog in the history of cinema may not be realistically correct, but it is an excellent artistic way of turning the focus to their inner emotions. This film is art, after all -- not a documentary.

The only reason I didn't go for 10 stars is that I had a persistent feeling that something was missing. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I would have liked some back story about Theo's youth, something that would make him a whole person. The film does work without that, but it is a lack that a writer and director of such brilliance could somehow have remedied.

This is not a feel good, date movie.
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10/10
Brilliant, Intense and Brave Film-making
tkam3 May 2006
Just saw this at the Tribeca Film Festival and it's one of the most intelligent, raw, intense and thought provoking films I've ever seen. It's unfortunate that some audience members and critics will focus on the graphic scenes of rape, tender lovemaking, masturbation and emotional trauma.

The movie ultimately is about the extreme strength and fragility of personal will. We're shown how one person's surfacing unconditional love strengthens that person's will enough to accept and (heart wrenchingly) and not stop the complete relinquishing of another's personal will. Heady stuff, but very cleanly done.

The two lead performers, Jürgen Vogel & Sabine Timoteo, fully inhabit and bring to surface the deeply-buried emotional chaos and trajectories of their characters. (The brilliance of their work would be lost on audience members who aren't used to understanding different cultures, i.e.: Germans cool, thoughtful communication style.) Their performances are nothing short of phenomenal.

If you love great film making, see this. But brace yourself for a very compelling and intense 2.75 albeit efficient hours. You will be blown away. I found it very insightful and moving.
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9/10
the opposite of chick flick - only for the strong of heart - bold movie!
pavese-115 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I saw the first screening of this movie on Berlinale this year. I have to say that it is easy to condemn this movie and in the extremely politically correct atmosphere of a movie festival the audience refused to applaud afterwards despite the amazing performance of both Jürgen Vogel and Sabine Timoteo. I don't know whether the refusal to applaud was due to the fact that the audience was still speechless or that the topic is simply to risqué. Probably both.

The movie takes the bold step to try to get into the skin of a rapist (Vogel) who has just been released from prison after serving a nine year sentence for sexual assault.

Jürgen Vogel conveys the feeling that he is both scared to death of himself and women as he knows that he is not able to master his urge to repeat what brought him into prison. Most people will not want to get this close to one of the most outcast pariahs we have in society - and boy, do we get close.

In one memorable and very explicit scene he masturbates as if he wants to rip his penis from his groin. Other scenes show him struggling with himself when he is confronted with women. The film makes it very clear that there is no hope for Theo in this battle against an urge that is too powerful and soon his "free will" leaves the stage and we are invited to see a seemingly endless rape scene that - honestly - got me on the verge of leaving the theater. It's slightly reminiscent of the ugliness of Henry - portrait of a serial killer.

Where most directors would now offer some psychology-101-explanation as to what turned Theo into such a hideous monster in order to give the audience some sort of rationalization of the horror on-screen Mathias Glasner does no such thing. Instead Theo is even allowed to fall in love with Nettie (telling-name, nett means nice), but it's not hard to guess that they are not going to have a pair of twins and marry in the end.

What makes this movie so difficult to digest is the fact that its premise seems to be that Theo is still a human being with emotions. That he has a cross to bear that none of us could carry. But at the same time it is also clear that he is a ticking time bomb and that nothing can keep him from repeating his monstrous deeds. What are we to do with this dilemma? The movie offers no answers, therefore it's easy to point the finger and accuse it of moral indifference. But not all issues, especially the question of what to do with sex offenders, can be solved.

This movie sticks a finger into this festering wound with a relentlessness that few will find bearable. The guts it took to shoot this movie both from the director's point of view and - to an even higher degree - from Jürgen Vogel's perspective deserve respect. He plays this character with an emotional force that leaves you wondering how much Theo is actually in him. In America this movie would have destroyed his reputation for a decade. And at times you wonder from where Jürgen Vogel got the strength to pull this one through.

All in all a shocking, disgusting, and deeply depressing movie that has the guts to tackle a true taboo - and there aren't many left.

One word of advice though - don't take your girl-friend. If you are a girl - don't watch it.
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9/10
Emotionally and psychologically very good film
acidosislactica12 August 2006
A very good film about the emotional and psychology of a raper who, after nine years of condemn, is free under supervision. He gets a job and begin a relationship with a girl who has is own psychological peculiarities.

The film goes deep into the emotional and psychology of the main characters, specially the raper, and through a very good acting from both of them and a good manage of silences and dialogs, the film really makes the people get into the movie to feel the horrible suffering side from the point of view of the victims and the struggle that Theo has to deal inside with.

Also it shows to us the hard part of knowing and, after, accepting the past life of Theo by Neeti. At the end and after hard struggle within, Theo realizes that he can not fight against his own "frei Wille".

The film is indeed too long but it never makes you feel bored or lose interest. A very impacting and good film.
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9/10
what a great movie
gsb773 May 2007
2 days ago i saw "der freie wille". now, after 2 days and many thoughts, i'm more than positive about this movie. what it makes great, is the brilliant script, especially when you consider the subject, the superb acting by jürgen vogel and sabine timoteo and the discreet, but precise directing by matthias glasner. while watching the movie i was drawn into the story, understood the characters and felt with them. i actually was talking loud in front of the screen. that might sound a bit silly due to it's just a movie, but i was captured. despite the length and the difficult subject of the movie, i just can highly recommend this film!!!
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7/10
Gripping movie experience but way too long
neomagic2 August 2006
Saw it here in Germany yesterday. This is a pretty intense film. It's a psychological study about two people, one of them a rapist and one a shy young women (strange personality as well) who seem to develop feelings for each other. Because of the very gritty atmosphere and some disturbing scenes quite a few people left the cinema. Even though I appreciated some of the film's aspects like not holding back on anything and developing deep characters I still felt like the director forgot to deliver a final cut of the movie: it was so long (160 minutes) and stuffed with endless shots that didn't help the story, that I felt bored many times, in spite of the extreme story and the brilliant acting. Another thing that bugged me was the low resolution, low color, video camera style which was probably supposed to make the film look even more bleak - unnecessary in my opinion.

Had it been cut to regular film length, it would have greatly benefited the impact of the movie. Like this, for me it's a 7.

P.S. One guy here mentioned in his review, that understanding of different cultures is necessary like the Germans' "cool and thoughtful communication style". I have never seen people in Germany talk as little as the characters in this movie and can't imagine any two people to build a relationship based on one sentence per five minutes.
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10/10
Selfish genes
lreynaert25 July 2009
This physically and emotionally extremely violent movie is a deep meditation on an essential philosophical problem regarding mankind: man's free will, his freedom and liberty of action. It is the story of a man who tries to master his sexually sadistic drive against women. With harsh explicit shots the camera shows the uphill struggle against this obsession baked into the genes: 'It is inside me. It is inside me'. How can I get rid of it? This movie, with a sublime Jurgen Vogel in an extremely difficult role, is one of the greatest masterpieces of all time. It is a must see for all those who want to know who we really are.
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6/10
Gripping Story, brilliant acting, authenticity - but too long & exhausting
info-93601 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
"Der freie Wille" is the tragedy of the rapist Theo (Vogel). After years of imprisonment and struggle for a normal life and love, he realizes that he can never be free of his pathological sexual urge. I saw this movie yesterday and it left intense, but contradictory impressions on me. First and above all, I appreciate the brilliant and authentic acting of J.Vogel, S.Timoteo, M.Zapatka and the whole ensemble. I saw real persons, not roles, sharp characterizations, not clichés, good actors, not stars. I appreciate the courage of the producers to realize such a movie, too. It's necessary to make movies like this. But in my opinion it has some severe structural problems, and that's why I refused to let story & characters affect me till the end. What a pity! Okay: some extremely disturbing scenes are shown, because the story isn't nice. Okay: this movie is a hard challenge for mind & heart, because cruelty against women is bad reality - worldwide. Okay: the main character Theo is a tragical monster, because of his unsolved conflict. Okay: Theo's only girlfriend Nettie (Timoteo) has to be both a highly neurotic and very intelligent person - other girls wouldn't be able to like Theo, and he wants her love so badly. Okay: the story is concerned with pain, cruelty, dread, fear, sorrow - all the abysses of human soul. But 3 hours long? It seemed to me that the movie contains too much unnecessary scenes (i.e. Nettie's job in a Belgian chocolate factory), that didn't help the story and unfortunately failed its impact on me. Eventually, for Theo, his victims and Nettie their lives are infinite real time human catastrophes. But to be and stay deeply affected by a character's tragedy in a movie, it isn't necessary to reveal every little detail of his or her life as if it happened in real life. This fact even weakens my attention and sympathy for the anti-heroes.It appears to me, that the movie couldn't decide between drama and documentary. But the really bad effect on me as the film's audience, who expects drama art, not real life: in the long run it's too exhausting to follow the plot. Unfortunately the key scenes get the same attention as the under-plots (and after a too long time no attention anymore). Therefore the dramaturgy kills itself. Besides, too much Method Acting. The story is intense enough - why so much long takes of sighs and yells? Timoteo does a brilliant job - when she shows her feelings subtle and reserved. I was also fascinated by Vogel's performance - when he shows soul instead of nakedness. I also concede, I'm not happy with the very hard ending. But somehow I would've liked it, if the movie would've been cut as a piece of drama art, not as a diary of pain. c.k.
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8/10
A brilliant title for a brilliant movie
reb_vodka_0420991 April 2010
Ah, the always-magnificent German cinema comes through once more. 2 hours and 43 minutes of stupendous cinema experience is what this movie is.

I really can't say whose performance was the greatest: Sabine Timoteo's or Jurgen Vogel's? They were both so rattling in their own way. And the subject of the movie is bold, carelessly blow-to-blow, heartbreaking.

This movie has no beauty in it. But that's exactly the beauty in it. There's no poetry in it but it's so poetic. Every close-up, every character panning, every scream. Obsession and addiction and the free will.
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8/10
The Challenge of Morality and Mentality
samuelding852 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The Free Will has been compared with Gasper Noe's Irreversible for the take on view of rape. And it was said to be more controversial than Irreversible.

In some way, The Free Will proves to be better than Irreversible. But on the other hand, Irreversible gives a bigger impact than The Free Will.

Director Matthias Glasner brings out the weakness of a human being (and i am referring to rape here) by creating a character named Theo (Jurgen Vogel). Theo sexually violated a girl, and was sentenced to 9 years of imprisonment. He wants to start a new life for himself, by living in a apartment that houses ex-criminals, getting himself a new job in the publishing factory, and finds release through sports and self fulfillment through porn videos.

Glasner then introduces Nettie (Sabine Timoteo) into the story. She was the daughter of the owner of the publishing factory. Through some small little incidents, Theo and Nettie knows one another better. They developed a relationship later. However, while going through a normal relationship, Theo found himself fighting the battle against sexual urges with the opposite sex, which can leads to rape if he did not do something problem to stop himself from walking back to the same old road again.

The Free Will is a test on the audience's moral values and patience. Why moral values? Theo uses porn to find satisfaction, and later, engaging in a sexual relationship with Nettie. It questions the audience on the moral values on sex and urges in the human beings.

And why patience? The Free Will is a slow moving film that lasts 163 minutes, longer than any other movies that discuss similar topics. However, 163 minutes were used to explore the inner world of Theo, right from the beginning when he sexually violated the problem to finding a solution for himself. Rather than having everything fast forward, it goes on the pace of things happening in our daily life.

Using a digital video camcorder to shoot the film, The Free Will takes a much more closer approach to the story on an ex offender finding ways to change himself. Irreversible, which was also filmed using a digital camcorder, takes a real life approach on an incident that took place in less than 12 hour's time.

The Free Will is a piece of fine work that explores beyond The Free Will.
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4/10
Mature subject matter, but flawed in its execution
I, too, saw this film at the Berlinale, and though the matter of rape was treated with maturity and frankness, the film itself was constructed poorly. More than anything, it was bland - camera placement and cuts were standard fare, non-diagetic sound was near non-existent, and the dialogue was highly unrealistic, comprising of long, drawn-out pauses interspersed with briefly-spoken lines.

The upshot of this was that I felt no attachment to the characters beyond a basic sympathy for their current predicaments - dialogue was stretched out to the point of losing its emotional resonance, and many lines were delivered with little feeling from the actors. I was particularly unconvinced by Sabine Timoteo's performance, whose talent restricted her to screaming rather than actual crying. Compared to Claire Dane's stunning depiction of anguish in Romeo and Juliet, I felt wholly unsatisfied by her performance.

It was these factors that made the characters feel less than human, failing to imbue them with life. This, coupled with the utterly bland direction and editing, meant that I felt no attachment to them, and I was left gagging for each coming line of dialogue purely to provide a break from the silent, expressionless moments in between. Drawing out the narrative to over two and a half hours simply rubbed salt in the wound.

The Free Will was not in itself awful, but there were so few points of interest that I found myself becoming restless within forty minutes, and when the credits rolled in what will doubtless be considered a brilliantly emotional finale, I still felt little attachment to the characters.
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8/10
"Unsentimental and afflicting love-story..."
Sindre Kaspersen21 May 2012
German screenwriter, producer and director Matthias Glasner's fifth feature film which he co-wrote with Jürgen Vogel and screenwriter Judith Angerbauer and co-produced with Jürgen Vogel, Christian Granderath and Frank Döhmann, was shot on location in the city of Mülheim, the Baltic Sea Island of Usedom and Berlin in Germany and in Belgium. It is a German production and premiered In competition at the 56th Berlin International Film Festival in 2006. It tells the story about Theo Stoer, a rapist who after spending more than nine years in a psychiatric hospital for crimes he committed while living and working as a kitchen helper on a Baltic Sea Island, is sent to an assisted living residence in Mülheim, Germany. Helped by a parole officer named Sascha, Theo gets a job at a printing office, begins to practice Martial Arts and is encouraged to find himself a woman whom he can take out on a date. Though struggling with a high level of anxiety Theo follows Sascha's advice and has no luck. He decides to give it a rest and focus on his daily tasks, but one day he is introduced by his boss Claus Engelbrecht to his daughter Nettie, a 27-year-old kitchen assistant who is about to move out from her father's house and into her own apartment. Theo and Nettie are both lonely individuals who seek the company of others and without knowing anything about Theo's history, Nettie becomes attracted to him.

Finely and acutely directed by European filmmaker Matthias Glasner, who was co-writer, co-cinematographer, co-producer and co-editor on this feature film, this quietly paced independent film draws an incisive and unsettling portrayal of a man who is trying to get back into society after serving time for committing horrendous crimes against women and an intimate and humane portrayal of a friendship and of a lonely, considerate and independent-minded woman who finds a connection and falls in love with a person she hardly knows. While notable for its gritty and naturalistic urban milieu depictions, the versatile production design by production designers Tom Horning and Conny Kotte and the fine editing by Matthias Glasner, German film editor Mona Braüer and film editor Julia Wiedwald, this at times silent and character-driven story depicts two merging studies of character and examines themes like loneliness, guilt and human relations.

This dense, somewhat disturbing and demanding psychological drama which alternates between the two main characters' viewpoints and between realism and non-realism, is impelled and reinforced by its rigorous narrative structure and the introspective and heartfelt acting performances by German screenwriter, producer and actor Jürgen Vogel and Swiss actress Sabine Timoteo. An unsentimental and afflicting love-story which gained, among other awards, the Prize of the Guild of German Art-house Cinemas Matthias Glasner and the Silver Berlin Bear for Outstanding Artistic Achievement Jürgen Vogel at the 56th Berlin International Film Festival in 2006.
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6/10
Brutal movie about overcoming your demons
Warning: Spoilers
This almost 10-year-old movie is a definite contender for longest German film in recent years. It easily passes the 150-minute mark and yet manages to drag on only very few occasions. Most of the film is well done and will have you curious about what is gonna happen next. A lot of that is thanks to lead actors Jürgen Vogel and Sabine Timoteo. I also liked Zapatka's performance while I thought Hennicke was fairly forgettable. The film is directed by Matthias Glasner and also written by him with the help of Judith Angerbauer and Vogel himself.

Let me say that this is a very graphic movie. Vogel plays a convicted sex offender and in the first 10 minutes we already see how he rapes a young woman. A similar scene happens at the end of the movie and that is by far not everything. No taboos here and the ending is very tough to watch as well. Yet, it never feels that these scenes were just included for the sake of it. They all serve a purpose. Even if we know the main character is a violent monster, we still feel with him and hope he can be cured and will not commit any crimes again, maybe even become happy with Timoteo's character.

The movie takes place in Berlin, but as a Berlin resident, I have to say the references were not that big. I only remember a metro station sign. It's all about the question if he can defeat his evil desires and choose love over all the temptation that constantly seems to follow him. My favorite scene is maybe near the end when he realizes what he has done and what is going to happen to him (again) in the bathroom. Maybe the best-acted scene from Vogel's career. In terms of impact, the ending is very important too. I liked how joggers just ran by not realizing the drama that had just taken place. Also the decision of Vogel's character is also a very clever reference to the film's title. I am not sure if I would watch this film anytime soon again, but it I certainly recommend it if you are interested in the subject, appreciate films with little dialog and can deal with the heavy material. Finally, i want to add that I very much liked the way "Ave Maria" was used here.
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3/10
A Showcase of unfocused film-making
jan-nebendahl11 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is the best example for what happens, when someone does not focus on the script while making a movie.

The DVD booklet says a lot about intimacy, about how this intimacy with the characters was developed while making the movie. I can only say: Thanks for wasting at least an hour of my life. The movie starts with a most brutal raping scene that made me wanting to puke. From there it staggers along, with a lot of scenes showing Jürgen Vogel naked exercising, masturbating, and similar, until the love story with Nettie (played very well by Sabine Timoteo) develops.

The movie is 163 minutes. With enough meat to make it 90 minutes. In an interview the director (who shows his semi-existent camera skills in too many shaky scenes) talks about the script becoming "a kind of map with a lot of blanks to be explored while filming", and thats shown in the movie. 5 minute long end scene with Nettie holding Theo at the beach, 15 minutes chasing Theo through Berlin, etc. No focus. No story. Very arty. Thanks for wasting German TV-fee money on that one.

And we see way too much of Jürgen Vogels penis. Some things need not to be shown. Art is too impress without showing. Too show it all just shows that the director lacks the means to create all the horror and disgust without the clear picture. On the contrary when Theo breaks into a woman's apartment to rape her we see him leave, but we have no idea whether his demons got the upper hand or not. So there is sadistic curiosity when someone is raped, but when the free will has it's short time, it's too much to just state the fact and the audience is left in the dark.

The camera is so bad that it hurts. Has no one ever told the director that a digital camera is not the right choice for dark scenes ? When a leg in the dark, or a face, consists of about 5-7 shades of grey, the camera might have been the wrong choice. And the movie has a lot of dark scenes. And they all look the grainy way which is the best such a camera can do in such a scene. Maybe some less intimacy and some more professional pictures might have been achieved by using a real camera man instead of doing it all alone.

So, after all, the movie sucks. The actors are great (3 stars for that), but thats about it. 3 years of research and writing, just to throw the script away as soon as you start filming. But hey, who cares, it's not as if this movie was supposed to make any money. A classical German.
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10/10
Great movie - without an intention, failing to move people
user-77674 June 2006
I would not like to give a summary of the impulsive scenes or the techniques used in the film. I do refrain from talking about the movie as a logical construction. Anyway, that is exactly what was done at Ludwigshafen's 'Festival des Deutschen Films' - trying to pull the discussion onto a more emotional level, the director himself and the two protagonists failed. which stands for the extreme distance people (and eve the cast) seem to be able to keep having watched the movie. This lets me conclude that the movie, although displaying one part of human life/struggle, was unable to move people's substance.. This is the first movie that made me doubt, if the medium 'movie' can really reach people's core. Not even the realistic display of rape seems to be enough to touch people.
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1/10
Terrible movie
drmarre8 August 2007
One of the worst movies I have ever seen. Inconsistent story line, way too long, camera shots that last forever, mute characters, scenes that have nothing to do with the story, etc. E.g. why do we have to watch the protagonist practicing his martial arts moves? Especially when it's a bad move like when he teaches his girlfriend to defend herself from being choked. I hope no female viewer will memorize that move, because it will not work at all but even put her in greater danger.

A typical poor German movie, I have seen many of this kind. Heavy stuff, always trying to explain the world to us, and/or trying to educate the audience when it is not called for.

The story could have been told in 90 minutes (max). But it drags on and on and on.

But the worst is the sound, there is a constant background noise. The sound editor should be put in jail for this masterpiece, at least he should not edit another movie.

What a waste of time and money.

Dr. Marre (ph.d.guy)
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