Der Freie Wille (2006)
Matthias Glasner shoots his film through a gritty lens with handheld video cameras. He sticks them right in the faces of his actors, and lets them stay there - through some of the ugliest and most humiliating acts the human race is capable of. Der Freie Wille is an extremely exigent motion picture. It wants nothing more than to exhaust the viewer, jab at us for 163 minutes until we can no longer hold our guards up. It doesn't discuss its themes, it just presents them to us, but it does it extremely intensely. Glasner's achievement is the strength of his thesis; wanting to present the rapist as a man with a primal, inner urge he desperately wants to control, but simply cannot. He is presented as a stripped down, naked human being. He asks us to understand him, but his actions are never justified. Der Freie Wille grabs hold of you in a way that makes it impossible not to consider matters from every angle.
The question is whether Glasner's effort is fruitful. The trouble with his intensity is that it also threatens to wear down out our sympathy and emotional commitment. The film is fundamentally pessimistic. Glasner gets so preoccupied with his characters that he doesn't allow them to breathe. His film remains uneconomical, unsharply edited and unevenly paced. The dialogue (which at times is almost absent) is at times too motivated by thematic effect; it alternates between clinging to and diverging from realism.
Glasner's conclusion is effective and poetic, but he would have gotten a more potent result had he rationalized his film more. The acting is fine, especially by Sabine Timoteo whose transformation of her character Nettie is completely believable and stirring. I think the character of Theo would have profited by more expressive acting from Vogel, but he delves into his character with neck and crop. Der Freie Wille is a completely absorbing film. It has a complete commitment to its theme, and it handles it with respect in an impressively perceptive way. With a slightly less monotonous tone, and better cutting, it could have reached our spine to the degree Glasner wants.