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July 26, 2008

The Free Will

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Der Freie Wille
Matthias Glassner - 2006
Benten Films Region 1 DVD

I was going to write about The Free Will about three weeks ago. The former Coffee Mate was visiting me and watched the first fifteen minutes or so with me. Part of the film's beginning depicts the main character, Theo, stalking, beating and violently raping a young woman. The Coffee Mate went ballistic. It is her contention that rape, under no circumstances, should be dramatically depicted. She also feels strongly that any and all depictions, no matter the context, encourage others to do similar acts. I don't accept this argument but chose to see The Free Will after she had left. I also have problems with the concept of censorship of any kind. As I did end up with a second copy due to a post office snafu, I did send that copy to a female film critic, Martina Antunes, of Row Three. I have a few thoughts but nothing as deep as some others who have viewed this film.

The Free Will is a difficult movie to watch, deliberately so. While most of the narrative is about Theo, now an ex-convict, trying to make a new life for himself, the film breaks into some unexpected directions, primarily involving Nettie, a youngish woman who becomes involved with Theo. During the course of the 165 minutes, the characters are given time to present themselves, both the dramatic and boring parts of their lives.

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The title is, almost obviously, ironic. Theo claims that there is something inside him that compels him to commit sexual violence. While his life is a more extreme example, the film is really asking whether the many different things we do every day are based on habit, instinct or actual choice. The major part of the film is devoted to Theo and Nettie's relationship. Theo distrusts himself with women, while Nettie distrusts men. The two meet, part, and meet again tentatively, until they finally create what seems like a working, loving relationship. That love can be totally irrational is demonstrated by Nettie's feelings towards Theo after learning the truth about his past.

While the DVD comes with a commentary track by Matthias Glassner and actor Jurgen Vogel, I have chosen to let the film speak for itself. Of course, if I have misunderstood the filmmaker's intentions that might be said to be also of my own choosing. Still, what I think The Free Will is ultimately about is the choices one makes in life, assuming that they are choices, the responsibility for the actions one takes, and that no matter what we do, we finally end up alone either in death or to face a future that can still offer unexpected possibilities.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at July 26, 2008 12:09 AM