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Steff, a solitary gay man nearing middle age in Zurich, seeks capital to buy a furniture restoration business. A newspaper's funeral notice for Martin Hilder, dead from cancer, jolts him: he and Martin had been lovers for three years, and Steff didn't know Martin was ill. At the funeral, Martin's gaunt lover, Rex, angrily denounces the family's denial: Martin, whom he calls "Hilde" and refers to as "she," died of AIDS. Martin's will leaves everything to Steff, plus the wish that his ashes be released into the sea off the coast of France. Martin's mother wants the estate and the ashes: she makes Steff an offer. Rex wants Martin's wishes honored. Will the ashes reach the sea?Written by
'Hildes Reise' ('Hilde's Journey') is a surprisingly tender film despite the cover art suggesting a harsh and angry young man movie. Director Christof Vorster directs this screenplay he wrote with Gabriele Strohm and gives us a story that deals with difficult issues of AIDS, parental homophobia, relationship challenges met and squandered, and the power of shared love for a departed friend that can overcome almost any barrier.
Steff (Oliver Stokowski) works in an antique shop repairing furniture and longs for a shop of his own. His credit scores are low, he is unable to secure a business loan, and his outlook is bleak. Word reaches him that his ex-lover Martin, the son of a wealthy German family (the mother played by Heidi Maria Gloesser) who continue to deny his sexual preference, has died: the family calls the cause of death cancer, but the true cause is AIDS. Steff attends the funeral and Rex (Michael Finger) a young friend of Martin (who is also affectionately known as 'Hilde') shows up distraught, raging at the family for denying that their son died of AIDS. The will is read and Martin/Hilde left his entire estate to Steff: at last here is a source of money to advance Steff's career.
Martin/Hilde also has requested that he be cremated and his ashes thrown to the sea. The mother refuses this wish, attempting to deny her son's past and ensconce him in the family mausoleum. Steff addresses the family and tells them he will accept only a fraction of the money he has inherited, sacrificing the urn of ashes to carry out Martin/Hilde's wishes. Rex kidnaps the urn and together with Steff the two set out on a journey, initially for different reasons, but ultimately for the respect of Martin/Hilde whom they both loved (Rex also has AIDS, met Martin in the hospital and spent his last year with him as a caregiver). The way in which the potentially conflicting pairing of Steff and Rex is resolved is both touching and a satisfying ending.
The cast is uniformly excellent, the photography of the German and French countryside by Hans Meier is lush and moody, and the music score by Karsten Riedel is minimal but just right for the moods of the film. Yes, this could be categorized as a gay film, but its messages are so universal and the quality of the film-making so fine that it deserves a very wide audience. In German with English subtitles. Grady Harp
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