Coming Out was the first and only feature film to explore gay relationships made in the old East Germany and more than 30 years after it was released it's still avilable on DVD here in the UK. Coming Out was premiered on the night the Berlin Wall finally came down in 1989, which meant that it never received all the attention it deserved, in spite of winning a number of awards.

Coming Out was made by gay director Heiner Carow and apart from anything else is a wonderful picture of gay life inside the old East Berlin. Homosexuality had been decriminalised in the GDR in 1968, and though it was never accepted, East Berlin became renowned for a lively underground gay scene and some bars were used as locations for the film.

The opening scene follows an ambulance through well-known areas and boroughs such as Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin-Mitte (Alexander Platz) and Friedrichshain on a night that the audience could assume is New Year's Eve, due to the fireworks in the background. Other scenes in the movie are filmed on locations that were common meeting points for gay men in East Germany such as the Fairytale Fountain (Märchenbrunnen) in Volkspark Friedrichshain and bars such as "Schoppenstube" in Prenzlauer Berg and Zum Burgfrieden which was located at Wichertstraße 69, though it subsequently closed in January 2000.

Seriously sexy Matthias Freihof plays Philipp, a young teacher who is confused about his sexual identity. Although he had a homosexual experience as a teenager, Philipp suppresses his true sexual orientation and starts a relationship with a female work colleague called Tanja, portrayed by actress Dagmar Manzel. Dirk Kummer plays Matthias the young man Philipp falls in love with. Matthias Freihof and Dirk Kummer.
Nonetheless, Philipp cannot control his true feelings and he begins to explore the gay scene. There's a marvellous sequence in a gay club which is a combination of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert meets Cabaret. After drinking himself in a stupor, he meets a young guy called Matthias in a concert queue and that starts to tear his straight relationship apart.

If the story, which is never quite resolved, seems a little cliched from our 2004 perspective, a combination of sensitive performances and a gritty reality, makes it a great movie to watch on a frosty night and a definite must-have for any collection of gay feature films. Extras on the DVD include a guide to gay Berlin and an illuminating interview with Matthias Freihof with a fascinating insight into how the film got made.

Coming Out won a number of awards including a Silver Bear and Teddy Award at 40th Berlin International Film Festival, and awards at the National Feature Film Festival of the GDR.

Coming Out is available online at a special price from Amazon. The film has the option of adding English Subtitles.


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