Harvest (Stadt Land Fluss)

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Jul 13, 2011
Harvest (Stadt Land Fluss)

Writer-director Benjamin Cantu sets his gay coming of age film "Harvest" ("Stadt Land Fluss" in the original German) on a farm in Brandenburg, near Berlin, and populates it with a number of quickly--but colorfully--sketched adult supervisors/instructors and their young charges, a group of agriculture students in the midst of a "praktikum," or internship.

The two main characters are Marko (Lukas Steltner) and Jacob (Kai-Michael Müller), a pair of teenagers who couldn't be more different, but who are obviously a match for one another.

Marko is withdrawn and angry--as upset over the parents who abandoned him (mom to the bottle, dad to parts unknown) as he is anxious over his sexuality, all of which winds him into a tight, standoffish ball of adolescent angst. His peers regard him as "weird," except for one girl who has an unrequited crush on him; at least Marko has the sense not to go out drinking with them. He defies his instructors by shirking his work, but he keeps careful control over his impulses.

Jacob's is a calmer, more centered presence. He comes from a middle class family, but he's already unbearably bored with his life's pre-charted course. Under the German system of education, kids like Marko--disinterested in academics--are more or less bound for vocational training such as the farm provides, but Jacob has chosen a life in the fields over a deskbound career.

The differences in the boys' backgrounds and temperaments are quickly and effectively established in a single scene: As the two share a sandwich, Marko asks Jacob whether he's ever flown on an airplane. Yes, the answer comes--to Tunisia, with his family. With this exchange, it's obvious that the two are worlds apart, but over time they draw closer. As they do, the spark between them grows hotter until, in a moment of shared sexual spontaneity, they have their first kiss in a barn.

The film only hints at the confusion and turmoil that each deals with in the wake of that kiss. For Marko, it's one more thing that sets him apart; for Jacob, it's natural and not problematic, except for Marko's reluctance. A stolen overnight to Berlin helps the lads break through the final barriers.

Cantu lets his cast improvise and more or less find their own way through the story. This works, in large part because of the film's art house/European pacing and tone. There's no hurry and nothing feels forced: The story unfolds organically, to its own rhythm, and the characters unfold along with it. The natural setting and backdrop of hard manual labor act as a tonic to gay stereotypes, underscoring that what Marko and Jacob feel is not only natural, it's right for them. If they end up in a public embrace in broad daylight, it's because they've earned it.

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Screening at Outfest 2011
http://www.outfest.org

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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