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“Andreas and Stefan lead a happy and passionate life: Together with their beloved tomcat Moses, they live in a beautiful old house in Vienna’s vineyards. They work as a musician and as a scheduler in the same orchestra and they love their large circle of friends. An unexpected and inexplicable outburst of violence suddenly shakes up the relationship and calls everything into question – the blind spot that resides in all of us.”
LGBT films have made slow progress, but progress nonetheless. They used to fall into one category: the coming-of-age/coming-out story, always with a tragic ending (see: Boys Don’t Cry, 1999; Brokeback Mountain, 2005). We’re moving away from that at a steady rate, as usual looking outside Hollywood to independent cinema, and tragedy is no longer a given. Still with some way to go, a welcome addition is the ‘relationship in crisis’ category (See: The Kids are All Right 2010; Concussion 2013). Middle-age or boredom, rather than homosexuality, are the dilemmas here.
Tomcat is an engaging feature from Austrian director Händl Klaus. It will be shocking in different ways on either side of the Atlantic – I’d be curious to see what American censors make of the abundance of male full frontal nudity. It should also be approached with caution by cat lovers.
Still waters run deep. At the outset, Andreas (Philipp Hochmair) and Stefan (Lukas Turtur) have a solid, kind, loving relationship. Friends and neighbours of the couple are kept in the dark about the troubling events in the home. Stefan’s erratic behaviour seems to be spurred on by dissatisfaction in his relationship, although this is only hinted at, and never really addressed. Tomcat is a portrait of domestic violence. It is notable in that it displays two significant points. Firstly, that domestic violence can manifest itself in many forms, and secondly, that it can occur in same-sex relationships. Two concepts which people often doubt. It is for these reasons that Tomcat is important – not just for the LGBT+ audience.
There is not a huge amount of violence in Tomcat, but the outburst that is there is so jarring it will stay with you throughout the remainder of the film. The audience is with Andreas in his shock and disquietude. He asks the doctor ‘Will he hurt himself?’ but the unasked questions loom heavily: will he do it again? will he hurt me? The overarching theme of Tomcat is one of trust. One action, sudden and unexpected, can shake the foundations of a relationship, and once trust has been broken, can it ever be repaired?
The original title, Kater, means both tomcat and hangover in German. Just as a hangover, Tomcat will be in your head the following day.