This year seems intent on driving any good memories out of people’s minds. The fall of the Berlin Wall is one of the most memorable moments of the past three decades. Anyone who saw it will forever remember the image of Germans literally breaking through the divide. Free Country is a mystery that takes place in the newly reunified country.
Set in 1992, the story follows two police officers investigating the disappearance of two teenage girls. The men are from opposite parts of Germany and have differing approaches to their methods. They also have opposing philosophies about life. As things progress, they discover the case may go much further than the two realize.
The first thing that stands out about Free Country is the score. The synth driven soundtrack adds an almost paranoia sense of tension. It is as important to the movie as any piece of dialogue written. The plot focuses on the relationship between the two officers. Since they worked on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall, they handle the investigation in their own way. This is seen early on when the two are interrogating the classmates of the missing girls.
It seems like the set up for a buddy comedy or an opposites attract type of story. That is never the case here. While Markus and Patrick are the two leads, it is the case that is front and center in Free Country. Markus and Patrick are well written characters. Though there are the expected disagreements, Free Country does not go the “good cop, bad cop” route. Each investigator shows off their skills. They even begin pulling their talents together before long.
The mystery is captivating. Free Country has no wasted motion. It is not long before the disappearances of Patricia and Nadine are reported. Before long, erotic photos, nude corpses, and suspicious characters begin popping up. Since this is set in what is essentially a new country, Free Country also deals with themes that go beyond the missing girls. Topics such as immigration, democracy, and freedom of the press are all touched on. Even more subtle actions such as character reactions clue audiences in to a country in flux.
More True Detective than Law & Order, Free Country is a great thriller that will keep audiences watching the entire time. It may seem to be setting up a typical partnership, but the story has much deeper things in store for the audience. The mystery itself is strong enough to carry the film, but the great score and social subtext place it over the top.
Free Country is screening at this year’s Fantasia Film Festival.