The Toilers and the Wayfarers

Ladymol's Review

This film probably achieves the most on the smallest budget of any movie weíve watched. It takes a huge risk and tells this story using three inexperienced young actors. Fortunately for them, one of them is not only stunning he can actually act. Matt Klemp gives a wonderful performance as the nice, hometown boy, Dieter, who finds himself increasingly alienated from his authoritarian father. Although they are living in America, Dieterís family still speak German at home and live a very Lutheran lifestyle of abstinence and religious observance. Dieter feels alienated not just because heís a teenager who wants more fun from life, but because secretly heís gay. When his best friend Philip (unfortunately not one of the boys who can act and who bears a disturbing resemblance to Lawrence Lewellyn Bowen) comes out to him and kisses him, Dieter is confused and ends their friendship. Philip runs off to Minneapolis and becomes a hustler. Dieter is not long following him.

The film has some wonderful dialogue (despite being in German with subtitles when the boys and their families are on screen). Itís very natural. I could actually hear young men saying things like this: they were just nice boys trying to make their way in a world that would not make a place for them. When Dieterís father is called by the Minneapolis police to be told that 16-year-old Dieter has been found, he refuses to have him home when he discovers how heís been living. This decision forces Dieter back to a life of prostitution.

The film isnít exploitative about the boys. Itís amazingly respectful for them and their situation. I was slightly disappointed that overall it didnít live up to the promise of the theatrical trailer: many of the scenes there were cut from the final version. The trailer had a tautness and power that was lacking in the actual film. I also have some issues with the ending, but I wonít spoil it for you.

Very, very watchable. The wonderful performance from Matt Klemp is worth watching alone.

Cerisaye's Review

A coming of age story about a 16 year-old boyís journey to find a place to belong, a home.

Philip and Dieter are best friends who live in New Ulm, Minnesota.† They hang out together, including skinny dipping in the local swimming hole.† Dieterís older cousin Udo arrives from the old country to stay with his sick aunt.† His arrival upsets the calm surface of life.† Chasing his own idea of the American dream, Udo is idle, consuming TV and beer.

One day Philip tells Dieter he loves him.† Dieter repulses his friendís advances.† Is he lying to himself and to Philip?† Dieter is a beautiful blond hunk, quiet and serious, from a strict family.† Brunet Philip is a pretty gayboy.† Afraid heís lost his only friend, and stifled by smalltown morality, Philip runs away to Minneapolis.

Udoís aunt Anna dies suddenly, leaving her house and a large sum of money.† Everyone says Udo is gay, but his behaviour with Dieter is ambiguous, more comrade than would-be conquest.† They bond over shared hatred of authoritarian fathers and childhood unhappiness.† Dieterís father draws his own conclusions about their relationship, and, in the filmís most notorious scene, pulls the lad over his knee and repeatedly spanks his bare buttocks.†† Itís an incredible sequence.†

Of course this treatment sends Dieter to Udo.† He goes around provocatively, semi-naked, but if Udo desires the boy he keeps it in check.† They decide to go on the road, to escape Dieterís father.† Dieter has been getting letters from Philip, inviting him to come visit.† So they do.

Philip has turned to hustling.† In an affecting scene in his hideaway on top of an old warehouse, he tells Dieter about his experiences.† Heís found his home, alone, but happy and free.† Dieter is more concerned for his friendís safety.† Together they find comfort, while Udo is out.† Dieter, away from his restrictive family, finally allows himself to acknowledge his desires.

Meanwhile Udo the neíer do well is getting into trouble again.† Their money is gone, and Dieter turns to prostitution, like Philip.† Except he gets caught by a homophobic cop.†† Things go from bad to worse, as the story darkens.† At the end Dieter is older and wiser.† He understands home is more than a physical space:† itís a place to find love and self-acceptance.

The story is inconclusive.† A brief look at the lives of boys at a crucial moment, then weíre left to make up our own minds what happened next.† The immigrant experience adds another dimension to a story about searching for a place to belong.† Dieterís family live in America but they have carried old ways with them that donít suit their American offspring.

This is an ultra low budget movie, filmed in real locations, in stunning black & white, with gorgeous photographic images.† The actors are inexperienced but mostly perform well, especially the boy Dieter and Udo, whose exploits provide necessary comic relief.† Thereís a timelessness to the film, but I think itís set early 80s.† It is incomplete, but I suppose that reflects real life.† Thereís a good sex scene and a fair bit of nudity.† Dieter has a rather nice bottom, which we get to see quite a lot.† Itís an affecting story of boysí feelings, testing boundaries and clashing with family.† I wasnít happy with the Philip character, and Iím not sure what the film was saying with his story.† However, I think itís worth watching, if only because it looks so amazing.† Especially Dieterís lovely bum.† I know, Iím shallow.†