Pretty convincing character study
27 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
"Halt auf freier Strecke" or "Stopped on Track" is a German 105-minute movie from 5 years ago. And it was the big moment in the spotlight for Andreas Dresen, Milan Peschel and Otto Mellies. All three won German Film Awards for their work here. Writer and director Dresen is one of the most successful filmmakers from the former GDR. Peschel has worked in film for a long time, frequently as supporting actor to Schweighöfer. Mellies was roughly 80, in the final years of his life and career probably, when he made this one and it was (according to IMDb) the first award he ever won. And the film itself also won the Lola for Best German Film of the Year. Everybody involved with this one was probably a bit disappointed that the movie was not picked to represent Germany at the Oscars back then.

But now let us talk a bit about the story. The film begins with a couple in their 40s talking to a doctor when they are informed that the husband has terminal brain cancer. They only went there because he had some apparently not so serious headaches. This shows how things can entirely change from one day to the next. Live your life to the fullest, you have no idea how much time you have left. The rest of the movie is about the medical treatment he receives, the way he deals with his family and his family deals with him and his declining health until he dies in the final scene. It is certainly a fairly depressing watch from start to finish. Comedy is basically non-existent and you also have to be very attentive, so you won't miss any of the very few somewhat positive and uplifting moments.

As a whole, it was a realistic depiction of dying I believe and Dresen also did a good job with everybody else except the main character. The same story in reality where it certainly happens a lot too in a similar manner may not have looked much different. Still, sometimes I felt that the film still could have delivered a bit more on the emotional side, occasionally i found it a bit sterile for the subject, but I guess Dresen did not want to become it too much of a tearjerker and that's perfectly fine too. And there were also a handful scenes I did not like and that I could have done without, for example the early scene when the protagonist talks to a little machine about how he is supposed to tell his children about his illness. That was when Dresen overshot the mark, but I can forgive him because the positive moments easily outweighed the good. I also believe that despite the bleakness this film is an example which will have a much bigger (emotional) impact when watched on the big instead of the small screen. It may be very difficult to catch this film at a theater because of the time passed, but if you get the chance, then don't miss out on it. I highly recommend "Halt auf freier Strecke", even if the second half was inferior to the first and the song during the closing credits was also a weak choice.
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