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Jan Josef Liefers
The Hoffmanns are a forty-odd-year old couple living in Essen. Their two children are students. They live in an apartment that they have been able to buy thanks to the help of Anne Hoffmann's father. Anne is a schoolmistress motivated by her job while her husband Georg is a police officer, calm and efficient, but not particularly interested in the advancement of his career. To put it briefly, they are a couple like millions of others... Until the day when Anne, feeling unconsciously that the family bliss is only on the surface, starts becoming violent. And her victim is no other than Georg... Written by
Not too long ago, the German film "Freier Fall" came out and became pretty popular, also abroad. It dealt with a homosexual man/couple in the police force and this one here also has a police officer in the center, but this time the issue is not his sexual orientation, but domestic violence, with the only difference that the man is the victim here. "Gegenüber" was made almost 10 years ago and features excellent performances by Matthias Brandt and Victoria Trauttmansdorff and both very well deserved their German Film Award nominations. Jan Bonny did a very good job writing and directing here. He co-wrote the script with Christina Ebelt and both have not exactly been pretty prolific writers at this point, which makes the quality of the script even more impressive. Every single scene is a winner here.
Thumbs up also for the supporting players, especially Möhring and Striebeck (reminded me of Will Quadflieg). One of the most interesting aspects of this film is certainly the female main character's relationship with and perception of men and masculinity. Her reaction during the dinner with her parents was extremely telling here, when her husband gets the jacket as a reward for his promotion. She absolutely cannot deal with the fact that her husband is going to wear this jacket. It belongs to her father who is a big authority figure for her and she cannot take her husband seriously at all. How much she is still a little girl that longs for the acceptance of her dad becomes obvious in the car when she says her dad was impressed with her and also when she talks about the boy she is going to take care of. This fact also shows how broken her marriage was. She does not speak about this crucial decision with her husband before announcing it and she wants to be promoted as well. She even calls it her promotion because she cannot accept her husband being in a superior position than herself.
Now, some more words about the aspect of domestic violence. It is a very complicated situation because the husband is so passive and accepts the wife's comments about him being guilty and responsible for her beating him up because he is always so passive, even when she sleeps with his co-worker. She hurts him physically and emotionally during the entire movie, but he does not have the strength of will to hit back (not in a physical sense). He just accepts his fate. The children are fairly powerless as well. Another crucial situation is when we find out that the son is going to stop with his studies and the son offers to tell his mother, but the husband says he will do it, only to make things not look as bad. And then he asks his daughter if she can tell the mother, because he knows what is going to happen if he tells his wife. Another interesting depiction of the role of men and women and how Trauttmansdorff's character sees it is when she talks to one of her pupils very early in the film.
Finally, some words on Brandt's professional life, especially his relationship with Möhring's character. For almost the entire film, he mistakes him as his friends, maybe because he does not have any friends and it's truly telling that he does not go and sleep at his daughter's place (after his wife beat him up badly), but instead goes to Möhring's character's home, after he slept with his wife already. He asks if he can look around in his colleague's flat after the colleague not only took a closer look at his flat on the other hand, but had sex with his wife. There is some massive irony in that. The final scene with his colleagues makes it very obvious. Everybody knows that his colleague and his wife had sex. Everybody knows about his wife beating him up and sees him as a weakling now. Basically, his professional career is destroyed, only because he trusted Möhring's character with letting him know about the injuries and all this after he had sex with his wife. The ultimate betrayal and still he shows him the injuries. Brandt's character has absolutely no talent in terms of human relationships and knowing who is on his side and who is not.
A truly brilliant movie. I highly recommend it. Certainly not an easy watch in terms of the serious material in here, but a very rewarding one. Highly recommended.
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