Love and Resilience
We do not often think of men being abused by domestic violence but that is what this film is about. It focuses on a group of men who inhabit a shelter for abused men and does so with honesty and sensitivity. The men who share a common bond of domestic abuse include Dominic (Urs Stapfli), a mathematician; Horst (Hans-Ulrich Laux), an unemployed truck driver; Gregor (Roland Avenard), a novelist; and Lukas (Peer Alexander Hauck), a piano teacher. The women they love (and may also fear) include Angela (Frances Heller), a 23-year-old pregnant housewife; and Belinda (Anna Gorgen), a lawyer. Director Philipp Muller-Dorn takes a daring and provocative look inside the world that very few men, out of embarrassment or retaliation, speak of: domestic abuse by their partner. Exploring this is long overdue and the film allows us to see an issue that many of us have never thought about. What we really see here is how men who have been abused by their wives or lovers deal with the obstacles that seem to prevent them from emancipation.
When we first meet Dominic, he’s living with married friends, having been beaten up (he’s got a patch over one eye) and kicked out of the house and if this is not enough, he has just lost his job. He eventually winds up in a shelter for abused men. By interacting with the other residents, reluctantly participating in group therapy sessions, and by signing up for a karate class where he meets a sympathetic lady lawyer, Dominic slowly reveals his past history—through flashbacks– with his wife.
While on vacation in a rural area, Dominic met and fell for Hannah, a hearty, lusty country girl who introduces him to sex. They marry and return to Berlin where they soon have a baby boy. Over a short period of time, Hannah becomes somewhat deranged and accuses him of infidelity (and this is quite laughable when you see who Dominic is). She begins to attack him physically and verbally. His innate shyness, fear of confrontation and willingness to please seem to enrage his wife, who eventually vanishes, leaving their young son behind as a ward of the state. At the shelter he sees that he is not alone in this and it is there that he meets Belinda, a lawyer and the two fall in love as she helps him to reclaim both his child and his manhood.
In the process of gaining back his life, we hear Dominic says things that we have often heard abused women say and while it makes us a bit angry that he does not stand up for himself. For Dominic to do so is not part of his personality. Over the last few years, we have had many movies about domestic violence but we have not seen one in which the wife is the abuser.
Philipp Muller-Dorn has taken a realistic approach to the subject. No one character is just a monster or a weakling. The performances are wonderful. The star is Dominic, a flawed character who is also endearing and here is a film that really opens our eyes.