Saturday, March 17, 2012

Review: Harvest

Dir. Benjamin Cantu
Country: Germany
Aus Rating: N/A
Running Time: 85mins

There are nearly 30 films listed on IMDb with the title Harvest. From such a roundly unimaginative title, however, comes a story that emerges out of a refreshingly unique location as Benjamin Cantu’s film explores the lives to two young men who stumble across each other within the confines of a farming apprentice program in the Nuthe Urstrom valley on the outskirts of Berlin. For all the internet pornography that has fetishised the lives of farmers, it’s a thoroughly unglamorous life and that’s just one of the surprises of Cantu’s debut feature – he has previously made short films and TV – that rarely lets the audience’s expectations come to fruition. That it takes some 50 minutes for the “queer” aspect of Harvest [Stadt Land Fluss] to finally manifest itself in a truly physical way is another, but what it may lack in overt gay DRAMA for audiences seeking little more that titillation, it gains in a slow-burning intensity that makes for fine viewing.

Opening with gorgeously lensed shots of Germany pastures, Harvest is able to very quickly paint a sense of place as it goes about showing the working lives of a class of farming students. The reserved Marko never speaks out of turn, doesn’t indulge in drinking like his fellow students, responds passively (or doesn’t even notice, it’s hard to tell) to the advances of a female student, and simply wants to learn how to be a farmer to make a life for himself that his troubled upbringing may have otherwise not allowed. Newcomer Jacob has recently quit a similar internship with a far more socially acceptable and well-paid institution (a bank). That the two become friends out of awkward necessity – neither of them feel quite right around other people – rather than some instant sex radar is what lends Harvest’s final sequences a rich authenticity. That they fall for each other isn’t surprising, what’s refreshing is that Cantu doesn’t treat their romance as Gone with the Wind.

Being gay and falling for somebody isn’t the only trouble plaguing these guys, Marko especially, but acknowledging these feelings will make them healthier and stronger, and therein lies the problem for Marko. He’s not sure what he wants; love seems like the least of his interests. At least at first. The performances are uniformly superb, with newcomer Lukas Steltner and Kai Michael Müller as Marko and Jacob proving to be quite stellar. The introverted performance by Steltner is particularly fine as his internal securities slowly begin to fade away. And, yes, they’re both good looking men but they lack a distracting prettiness that would belie their situation.

Handsomely photographed by Alexander Gheorghi, Harvest shares a similar brooding energy to the Danish gay romance, Brotherhood and its potency lingers far more than any cheap, crass, candy-coloured American import. Some may think it’s lack of horniness takes the sizzle out of it, but I found its more subdued take on the relations of young gay men was refreshing and all the slinkier. These two men don’t discover each other in seconds of gratuitous sex, but through evolving, fleeting moments. It has a quiet dignity about it that makes Harvest an impressive piece of work. B+

Check the MQFF website for screening details

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great review :)