Watch Before the Fall
- 1 hr 50 min
Before the Fall is a German movie released in 2004 directed by Dennis Gansel. The movie tells the story of a group of teenagers in the early 1980s who attend a strict high school in East Germany that trains students to become elite athletes. In the movie, the students are preparing for a national gymnastics championship, but the preparations come to a halt when a new student, Wolfgang, joins the school.
Wolfgang, played by Max Riemelt, is a rebellious newcomer who challenges the strict parameters that govern the school's training program. As the son of a dissenting playwright, Wolfgang sparks the curiosity of the other boys in his class, who start to question the rigor of the school's training regimen. Among these boys is Frederic, played by Tom Schilling, who begins to express personal doubts about the role he is being trained for by the school.
The impetus behind Wolfgang's presence is the responsibility of the sports instructor, Herr Hoffmann (Devid Striesow), who back then was a former top athlete and now is responsible for the training of the school's gymnasts. Despite Wolfgang's defiance towards the ideological conformity of East German society, Hoffmann sees potential in Wolfgang's own gymnastic ability and invites him to train with his athletes.
As Wolfgang becomes more involved with his new teammates and deviates more from East German society's constraints, the gymnasts' performance in competition improves dramatically. Before the Fall is a drama that explores the effects of conformity and rebellion, as Wolfgang's presence shakes the boys in his class out of their regimented existence.
Dennis Gansel masterfully directs the individual arcs of each character with grace and subtlety. The teenage cast acts with a maturity that doesn't go unnoticed, as they carry the weight of their characters' emotional pain throughout each scene. The performances of each lead actor are strikingly grounded and nuanced.
The camera work of Before the Fall is excellent, with the cinematography capturing the intimacy and tension between Wolfgang and his new teammates. Gansel uses the film to paint a vivid picture of the austere society that the East Germans had to navigate every day, but also the inherent pressures that came with being selected to represent the country in sport.
The film's themes are consistently well-formed, character-driven, and genuinely thought-provoking. Gansel explores the classes and expectations between boys, as well as the nature of competition and how it can set one person against another. He examines how the innocence of youth gives way to the brutality of adulthood, and how absolute loyalty to one's country can lead to moral dilemmas.
Before the Fall also explores the idea of shaping an identity and the politics behind indoctrination. The narrative, at its heart, revolves around the character of Wolfgang and his newfound identity in a society that isn't welcoming to people like him. Wolfgang is an outsider who disrupts the system, and Gansel expertly portrays the fear and visceral reactions that Wolfgang's presence provokes from the East German establishment.
Before the Fall is a truly remarkable film with tight direction and a fantastic cast, expertly depicting the perils of conformity and societal programming. Dennis Gansel's film is filled with raw emotion and unflinching tension, resulting in a moving and impactful story that will stay with viewers long after the credits roll.