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Urs Peter Halter
A poignant romantic drama examines the life of gay 26 year old, ex-monk, school teacher living in Manhattan. When he meets a man at a gay bar, they connect and are soon living together. Unfortunately their views on monogamy don't match.
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Reportedly the first film to come out of East Germany to deal openly with gay issues. Philipp, a closeted teacher is dating a female collegue to keep up appearances. One night, by 'accident' he stumbles into a gay bar, meets and promptly falls in love with a young man. Transformed by this love he is no longer afraid to face up to who he is.reportWritten by
Premiered in East-Berlin on 9 November 1989. When the news broke that the border between East and West had been opened, the film was stopped and the audience was informed about the event taking place outside the cinema. The vast majority of the audience demanded to see the rest of the film before joining the masses outside. See more »
A Testament of a Time Capsule - that hasn't totally dissolved!
COMING OUT is a seventeen-year-old movie, created in East Germany while under Communist rule, about the dangerous milieu in which gay men closeted their identity. It is a stunning achievement in that it presents the agony of coming to grips with sexual identity in a suppressive atmosphere, opening to public viewing the night the Berlin Wall tumbled. With this knowledge the story of these people is all the more heartbreaking with the chance that life for each character would have been different if told a few months later! The real tragedy is that the story is timeless and universal: the trauma of young people coming out is still potentially as wracked with anguish as the trauma of this film.
Philipp (handsome young Matthias Freihof) is a popular high school teacher, tightly in the closet, who happens to bump into (literally) an open and needy pretty girl Tanya (Dagmar Manzel) who immediately invites him to her apartment and introduces him to her bed. They form a comfortable bond, Philipp thinking his sexual identity problem is solved. Then Tanya brings home an old friend, Redford, who Philipp instantly recognizes as a boy with whom he has had hidden sex in the past. Old feelings are aroused and Philipp runs into the night only to end up in a secretive gay bar where he meets Matthias (handsome young Dirk Kummer) invites him home, and in a beautifully captured moment has a wholly satisfying physical encounter. Both men are enraptured.
Philipp returns to Tanya who questions his evenings' whereabouts and Philipp manages to keep his secret: the relationship suffers. Philipp has meetings with his mother and during one of these meetings his mother tells him she is sure Tanya is pregnant: she has all the symptoms of morning sickness and 'a woman can tell'. Philipp, though mortified, declares he will remain with Tanya, and at a party when the couple encounters Matthias (Philipp and Matthias greet each other with passion), Philipp introduces Tanya as his wife. Matthias is shocked and hurt and flees, and outraged Tanya discards Philipp. Philipp roams the streets and parks looking for Matthias, realizing they can now be lovers, but doesn't find him. He instead encounters one of his high school students Lutz (Robert Hummel) and has a one-night stand. In a sleazy gay bar Philipp meets an old man (brilliant actor Werner Dissel) who relates how life as a gay man during Hitler's reign had resulted in incarceration in a concentration camp, that gay men will always be persecuted. Returning to his classroom Philipp is informed that he is under observation because of his sexual activity. Struck by silence, Philipp stands before his class, his future unknown.
This story by Wolfram Witt as directed by Heiner Carow is as fine as any relating the terrors of coming out. That it is performed by such a fine cast is even more impressive, and the real banner that flies over this film is that it doesn't attempt to provide answers or maudlin endings. It merely stops - leaving the futures of each of these well-drawn characters to the imagination of the audience. It is powerful, it is well made, it is worthy of continued appreciation as a brave little film from another period in time, a period that continues into the present in so many places. Highly recommended. Grady Harp
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