Starring: Mike Hoffman, Mathis Reinhardt, Cai Cohrs, Tom Böttcher
Director: Chris Miera
Love is by far the most popular topic in all artistic mediums. After over a century of cinema, it’s a theme that has been explored hundreds of thousands of times from epic tragic romances to nuanced character dramas, so by now our expectations are pretty damn high. When Amour was released a few years ago, subtle depictions of extraordinary love in ordinary circumstances suddenly became the plot de-jour and no genre has embraced this more wholeheartedly than LGBT cinema. From Weekend to Carol, Free Fall to Floating Skyscrapers, some of the greatest films about LGBT people have followed this blueprint. Paths, the new German film to arrive on DVD in the UK, is not one of these films.
Andreas (Hoffman) and Martin (Reinhardt) have been together for years. Andreas has a son (Cohrs - aged 6; Böttcher - aged 19) who is heading to college, but as they wave him off toward his new life they are left living alone together for the first time in their relationship. Cracks, that have been present for years, begin to show. Flashbacks show us the extent that their relationship has crumbled, but also how it was built in the first place. So how can their relationship survive when suddenly left to stand up by itself?
Films like this rely entirely on the chemistry between its two leads. Unfortunately, Paths features precisely none of this. Andreas and Martin exist within the same space but their interactions feel like colleagues rather than lovers. Of course for the more strained parts of their relationship this is wholly appropriate, but when the scenes from the earliest stages of their relationship feel about as passionate as a Monday morning commute, there’s something seriously amiss in these performances.
The film also suffers severely from Inaction Syndrone: the terrible filmic malady in which absolutely nothing of note actually happens. The characters stumble about, accusing each other of not caring for each other, when really it’s us that don’t care about them. The fragmented episodic structure is there to spice things up, but you can’t help but wonder if the only reason the story plays with time is to embellish what is otherwise a desperately and catatonically boring film. But even that doesn’t succeed. After a while, it appears we’re watching paint drying, over and over, in different time periods. Great.
Aesthetically, the film is adequate. It makes the characters and their lives seem unremarkably normal, which is clearly the aim. They are average people in a wholly average story… so where’s the actual point in watching these people? Last year’s Austrian Tomcat was a similar kind of film both in origin and execution, but that, at least, made us ask questions and watch its surprisingly violent story with a critical eye. Instead, with Paths, we are treated to almost two hours of over-earnest browbeating that leads precisely nowhere. Aren’t we lucky?