This East German film was made at the very end of the Communist regime. It is a touching story of a young teacher who finds commitment very hard, much to the consternation of his mother who thinks he should settle down with a girlfriend and live the life everyone else is living.
Philipp has other plans, though, and other reasons for not living a conventional life. He keeps his sexuality secret and starts a relationship with a young female teacher at the high school where he works. Throughout the film we see him wrestle with questions of desire and attraction. He is conflicted over the need to live a conventional life and his wish to be as brave as the gay men he meets and socialises with. Jakob is a flamboyant young man who is a friend of his girlfriend. There is a lot of tension in the air when they meet at her apartment.
Into the film comes Matthias a somewhat shy young man who watches from afar but who makes no secret of his attraction to Philipp . There are scenes in a gay bar where many of the patrons are in drag or fancy dress. Whereas most of the men are comfortable in this scene and with themselves, the struggle continues for Philipp. An older gay man recounts the struggle he went through as homosexual during the Nazi era. The implication is that there is more freedom in the DDR. In one speech, he praises the communists for helping him where others rejected him.
At the end of the film, Philipp has a decision to make. The title may give away the ending but this film has an important message about acceptance, self- worth and freedom. The fact that this was one of the last films made by the DDR’s DEFA studios makes it an interesting document of times changing.
‘Coming Out’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?