Review: Free Fight (2018)

Free Fight (2018)

Directed by: Sven Bresser | 45 minutes | drama, short film | Actors: Chiem Vreeken, Aleksej Ovsiannikov, Olivia Lonsdale, Bert Kops

Decades after classics like ‘Raging Bull’ (Scorsese; 1980) and the original ‘Rocky’ (Avildsen; 1976), the world of martial arts retains a certain enigmatic appeal. This may have to do with the environment in which the films are set with great regularity. A living environment where a social underdog can become someone of name and fame. From an aesthetic point of view, these kinds of films are also attractive, because they manage to evoke a lot of tension in a fairly simple way. Perhaps the greatest strength, however, lies in the way in which these films effectively evoke pure emotions. It is precisely this intensity that can be seen as the strongest point of ‘Free Fight’.

After the sudden death of their mother, the fighting brothers Joes and Matthias Voskamp have to pick up the thread again. They each do this in their own way. Joes (Aleksey Ovsiannikov) is the most emotional of the two. It is very difficult for him to concentrate on the sport again. Rather, he seeks comfort from caregiver Roos (Olivia Lonsdale), who watches over him like a mother figure. Older brother Matthias, however, continues as if nothing ever happened. Bottling up his emotions, he focuses entirely on an upcoming fighting gala, in which the taciturn two must make an appearance together for the first time. Due to the different way of coping with grief, the two naturally come face to face with each other.

‘Free Fight’ chooses not to let the inevitable confrontation take place in the ring. It shows that life and sport are closely intertwined. Whether on the floor or at home, there is a battle to be fought everywhere. Private problems manifest themselves during the fight. And aggression in the ring can have repercussions on life outside. However, in Free Fight combat, a martial arts discipline where different fighting styles come together, it is necessary to keep calm. Any emotional distraction can be disastrous. ‘Free Fight’ shows that peace of mind is not easy to achieve. And that martial artists are first and foremost people.

The rawly filmed training sessions and match fights bring the viewer close. The blows that fall are palpably hard. But ‘Free Fight’ also retains a sense of proximity outside the sports hall. Although the film has little dialogue due to the silence of the brothers, their emotions speak for themselves. The pain is there. While the film may focus too much on Joes, leaving the story of Matthias somewhat underexposed, ‘Free Fight’ is a nice sample of the genre.

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