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Sprung ins Kalte Wasser / The man with the answers

Director: Stelios Kammitsis (Cyprus, Greece, Italy). Year of Release: 2021

Before we start, a slight confession. Often after I’ve seen a film and considered what I want to say about it, I then flick through the reviews on IMDB to see how other people have responded. I’m not really sure why I do that – it usually mainly serves to annoy me – but today I did learn something. I’m pretty sure that the film that was shown tonight was missing the first reel (which might also explain this evening’s 1 hour running time).

So when I say we start in Bari, this may well be a one night only experience. Other people commenting on the film seem to have seen sequences in Greece including the death of a grandmother, followed by some scenes on the ferry. Looking back, this does explain some enigmatic comments at the beginning of tonight’s film. Be that as it may, as far as this review is concerned, we’re starting in Southern Italy.

A young man is sat in his car in the ferry car park trying to make sense of the map out of town. A second young man comes over to remind him that he’d said he didn’t have a car. The first man, Victoras, is Greek, and seems to prefer his own company. The second, Mathias is always asking questions and getting in Victoras’ face.

I think Mathias is supposed to be enigmatic, but in reality he’s generally shallow and his apparently gnomic statements are simply uninteresting. I’m perplexed that the English title of this film is “The man with the answers” as Mathias (who I guess is said man) has little to say that is remotely enlightening. It’s a wonder that Victoras doesn’t just tell him to piss off.

After ignoring Mathias’ attempts to bum a lift, Victoras does drive after him and asks him to hop in. There’s a lot of this sort of indecisiveness in the film – one of the 2 lads (usually Victoras) becomes intensely irritated by the other, and then for no obvious reason relents. If there was any sort of chemistry between the two – sexual or otherwise – this may make sense, but there isn’t so it’s all fairly inexplicable.

We gradually learn that Victoras is headed to Bavaria to visit his estranged mother who married some German 6 years ago. Mathias doesn’t seem to have any fixed plan, although when the car is stopped by the police and they find that Victoras doesn’t have a driving license, he takes over the driving. [Passing note; why? When the film starts, Victoras is quite happy to drive without a license and is unable to bump into those provincial caps again]

Mathias tells Victoras to leave the motorway and take the pretty route, they go swimming together, they stop off at a wedding of one of Mathias’ friends which just happened to be on the way. As they pass through service stations, Mathias nicks packets of crisps which annoys Victoras to an irrational level. The film encourages us to share the sentiment that this is in any sense a Big Deal.

Nothing much more happens than that. They eventually find Victoras’ mother and after some typical dithering on his part, the family reunites. Then they go off and the film abruptly ends. Nothing is really resolved, we don’t learn anything of any substance.

There is a slight incident when they share a hotel bed, but this is dealt with so purely that the film could be easily shown before the watershed. Its not that I particularly wanted any scenes of gratuitous sex or even passion. It would have just been nice to see some feeling of any sort. I get it that Victoras and Mathias are supposed to fancy each other because the director has told us this. It would have been nice to have seen this on screen.

Things are not helped by the fact that for most of the time, both actors are speaking in English, which is neither of their native language. So I can’t say for sure whether they are wooden actors, or they were just having problems expressing themselves in a second language (which, let’s face it, most of us do for at least some of the time). Whatever the reason, it served as something of a passion killer.

Back to those IMDB reviews. Some of them awarded the film top marks almost entirely based on the good looks of the 2 young actors. Well, even here all I can say is that they didn’t do anything for me. So, even if I wanted to excuse the fact that the script was dull and the characters boring by saying that at least they looked good – well it takes all sorts, I guess.

We need more films about the experience of gay people, and this must mean that we need gay films that are just as boring as most of the straight films churned out by Hollywood. And yet one of the things which makes gay films potentially better – that they challenge accepted stereotypes – isn’t really an issue here. This is a film about 2 overgrown adolescents irrationally falling out in a way that is more contingent on their adolescence than their sexuality.

Some of the scenery is pretty though.

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