Drifter: a story of gay sex, heartbreak and hardcore partying

Director Hannes Hirsch’s debut feature film cruises on self-discovery, chosen families and finding your feet on the dancefloor.

All complicated love stories start with a blowjob. Drifter, the first feature film by German director Hannes Hirsch, is more than complicated, though. It’s not even really a love story – the main character gets dumped within the first 15 minutes. But it does start with a passionate blowie.

The film is set in Berlin and follows Moritz, a shy 22-year-old who moves to the party capital with his boyfriend. Mere weeks after they’ve arrive and appear to be settled, his boyfriend gets the itch and tells him to move out of the flat they share – for no real reason, it seems. From then on, it’s all systems go for young Mortiz. He’s got the whole city to explore, drugs to take for the first time, parties to lose his head at and sex to be had. Drifter is a coming-of-age story that feels a little like taking a shot of vodka for the first time.

For me, there were always stories, personalities, locations and events that were kind of stuck in my head,” says Hirsch. I was trying to create a story out of these things that I had experienced or seen in my friends, or just witnessed somehow. I tried to make a story out of them to understand these things and bring them in a line so everything makes sense, like a causal chain.”

It’s not like Mortiz got dumped and dived head-first into sheer hedonism, either. The story is more nuanced than that. At one point, he’s in a car with a load of partiers before a night out, when one of their phone alarms go off. It’s G time!” they shout. But as the pipette gets closer to his mouth, he decides to call it a night, not yet ready to fully immerse himself in sex, drugs and hardcore techno. But by the halfway point of the film, he’s got a buzzcut, is deep in the throes of a sweaty rave and has adopted a group of like-minded queer friends.

As a queer person, this is a task – you have to build up your life from scratch a bit. Usually you don’t have any role models, because you grew up in a straight family, as maybe Moritz did,” says Hirsch. You really have to discover everything again and decide: what do I want to have in my life? What do I not want to have in my life? How important is friendship? How important is family? Who are my friends? All these things. This is what being queer means to me, also.”

Self-discovery is crucial for young queer people. Most of us don’t grow up with people like us; we usually find them on-screen, in magazines or books. What Drifter does so well is pin-point the moment of finding your people – those you can laugh with, cry to, party with and revel in the hangover together the next day. It’s a pivotal moment in Mortiz’s growth, mirroring the experiences so many of us have had.

Like countless queer films before it, Drifter promotes the club as a safety net for the community. It’s not just a load of greedy hedonists munching on pills and dancing for hours (although there’s nothing wrong with that). The dancefloor is a haven for young and lost queer people to build their own group, a place that feels like a home when nowhere else in the world does.

After the party comes the inevitable comedown. But Drifter doesn’t dwell too much on that. Instead, Mortiz, for want of a better description, finds himself. Being queer, for me, also means being able to celebrate very well and very happily with my friends,” Hirsch says. Everybody wants to be part of the party. Queer parties have always been the best.”

Drifter is the BFI Flare London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival Closing Night Film at BFI Southbank on 25th March

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