Men (1985)

“Women have no scruples. We — we can be blackmailed by our consciences.”

Men Poster

Synopsis:
When an advertising executive (Heiner Lauterbach) discovers his wife (Ulrike Kriener) is having an affair with a bohemian artist (Uwe Ochsenknecht), he assumes a new identity and moves in with Stefan (Ochsenknecht), determined to learn more about why he’s so appealing to his wife.

Genres:

Review:
Made on a shoestring budget for German television, Doris Dorrie‘s Men later enjoyed a successful theatrical release, and was the most widely seen German film that year. Essentially an unconventional “love triangle”, it tells the story of a successful ad executive named Julius (Lauterbach) who is so devastated and puzzled by his wife’s affair with free-spirited, long-haired artist Stefan (Ochsenknecht) that he goes to comedic extremes to learn more about why she’s betrayed him. Because the storyline is set up as a comedy, we’re meant to ignore the first glaring logical loophole that emerges: wouldn’t Stefan see photos of Julius at his lover’s house, and recognize him? This minor quibble aside, however, we soon watch in fascination as the newly humbled Julius– a casual womanizer himself, who’s cheated on his wife countless times in the past — does everything he can to comprehend Stefan’s appeal, and perhaps become a bit more like him. Meanwhile, he can’t help releasing his simmering rage towards the unsuspecting Stefan in random fits, which Stefan conveniently accepts as part of Julius’s “crisis”. Eventually, as the two men get to know and trust each other, a genuine friendship emerges, albeit one predicated on deception. While it’s not must-see viewing for all viewers, Men is recommended for those who enjoy unconventional tales of male bonding.

Note: The film’s poster, which depicts an image from the final comedic scene in the film, is a bit misleading; while there are certainly homoerotic twitches throughout (and one kiss), relations between the two men, for the most part, remain strictly “platonic”.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Heiner Lauterbach as Julius/Daniel
    Men Lauterbach
  • Uwe Ochsenknecht as Stefan
    Men Ochsenknecht
  • An unconventional tale of male friendship and secret rivalry
    Men Friendship

Must See?
No, but it’s definitely recommended. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.

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One Response to “Men (1985)”

  1. Not a must – but it may very well maintain viewer interest due to its premise and the structure of its conflict.

    I’m not really all that taken with this film – but I can see where it would have appeal. Many people consider having affairs and keeping them well-hidden. When the husband here finds out his wife is having one, he’s incensed mainly because of his conviction that, when a married woman has an affair, it’s a threat to the marriage – but when the husband himself has one, it’s just for meaningless sex. In this story, the wife has wandered because her husband has become ‘married’ to his work and is paying her less attention (or so she feels). She doesn’t seem to want out of the marriage – but she does want attention paid to her. So she goes and finds some.

    The fact that she gets it from an eccentric artist shows that there’s no accounting for where we get our ‘state of bliss’. (After all, ‘love’ is not the issue in this film.) Of course, the husband wants to know if the lover is ‘a better man’ – and, naturally, goes through a period of self-doubt about his own attractiveness, etc. Until he comes up with a plan…

    The end may seem a bit inconclusive, but that’s of no real consequence. The film makes its point(s) in a reasonably intriguing way.

    Fave scene: Not having seen her lover’s apartment, the wife pays a surprise visit – while the husband is there as well. To get himself out of this delicate situation, the husband puts on a gorilla head and, sitting at the dinner table with the wife and lover, acts playfully like a gorilla (much to the charm of the wife).

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