June 29, 2008

The Free Will.

The Free Will "A character study of two people desperately fighting for a seemingly unattainable life, Matthias Glasner's The Free Will is rigorous and wrenching, and made all the more impressive by the fact that one of its protagonists is a relatively empathetic serial rapist," writes Nick Schager at Slant. "Trying to elicit compassion for Theo (Jürgen Vogel, who co-wrote the script), who in the graphic opening scene beats and sexually assaults a bicyclist after being fired from his job, appears on the face of things like a bid for cheap sensationalism."

But as Steve Erickson argues in the City Paper, "Glasner isn't exploring this subject to shore up his credentials as a bad boy; he's genuinely fascinated by the process of a rapist seeking to free himself from his worst impulses." The Free Will is "one of the most interesting German movies of the past decade; along with promising directors such as Christian Petzold and Valeska Grisebach, it's a sign of life in the long-moribund German cinema."

Updated through 7/3.

"Hats off to Benten Films once again for having the guts to release a challenging film like this," writes Charlie Prince at Cinema Strikes Back. "If you can handle uncomfortable dramas, I can't recommend the film enough; it's one of the best films I've seen in the last 10 years."

Cinematical's Monika Bartyzel notes that "there is a commentary with Glasner and Vogel - a discussion that covers how they felt and approached the controversial opening, as well as further thoughts and production details for the whole of the film. It's a measured journey in subtitles, but worth the time if you're curious about their motivations. There is also a critical essay written by Time Out New York critic David Fear."

Updates, 6/30: In other Benten Films news, Paul Matwychuk talks with Todd Rohal about The Guatemalan Handshake and reviews Aaron Katz's Quiet City.

Jürgen Fauth, who translated the commentary track: "Matthias Glasner's unflinching look at uncontrollable desires and evil urges is shot, acted, and told with such an uncompromising sense of purpose it's almost impossible to endure (how's that for a blurb guaranteed to jack up sales?) The fearless plumbing of the abyss on display here recalls Kinski and Herzog's Woyzeck."

Update, 7/1: "Is there a thematic point to be made about compulsive sexual violence?" asks Michael Atkinson (IFC). "There is if you see the film as being a critique of a masculinized society, and Theo as being a walking metaphor for every man's inner ape. But I'm not sure... You get the feeling Glasner was lighting house fires for the sake of raising questions about motivation and viewer complicity and social responsibility, an agenda that could make him, with some seasoning, the next generation's Michael Haneke."

Update, 7/3: "The Free Will is not so much a critique of a sexualized society, as critic Ian Johnston suggests on the back cover of the gorgeous new DVD package from Benten Films, but instead a terrifyingly intimate glimpse onto the hardships of a convicted sexual predator's attempt to reconcile his profound need to meaningfully connect with women and the vile impulses that make his attempt to re-enter society after nine years away in prison so awfully difficult," writes Dennis Cozzalio. "One thing that characterizes Glasner's intelligent approach, an approach that hands over a huge parcel of trust to his audience, is the degree to which he is unwilling to sentimentalize Theo or his plight."

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Posted by dwhudson at June 29, 2008 12:08 PM