Sergeant Major Eismayer is known and feared as the toughest training officer in the Austrian Armed Forces, ruthless with recruits and unwavering in his discipline, order and macho toughness. But when he starts to fall in love with Falak, a new recruit who unashamedly embraces his homosexuality, Eismayer‘s closeted existence is shaken to the core.
To a man like Eismayer, loving another man cannot be reconciled with the understanding of what a model soldier should be. Will he choose to protect his badass tough guy image over all else, or can he follow his heart and his true desire? Eismayer is inspired by a true story and in 2014, director David Wagner stumbled across it when he read an article about Eismayer in an Austrian newspaper. He was immediately captivated by the idea that the most terrifying training officer in the Austrian Armed Forces could fall in love with a recruit, and eventually accept his proposal and marry him in full dress uniform in the barracks courtyard!
At the time, Wagner was studying directing at the Hamburg Media School. As part of his course, he turned the story into a screenplay for a feature film. “My professor went a little crazy because he thought the story was so good,” Wagner said.
“I first heard the wild tales about Sergeant Major Charles Eismayer when I did my national service in the Austrian Armed Forces in 2001,” reveals Wagner. “Like many others, I was afraid of the army’s toughest training officer without ever actually meeting him. All the same, the stories about him left their mark. 15 years later, while studying directing in Hamburg, I started doing some research about this notorious living legend. I soon discovered something I had never expected: a love story that I found incredibly touching. Against all odds, two soldiers had fallen for each other and become a couple.”
The true story of Charles Eismayer, and how Mario Falak allowed him to finally accept the person he is, helps shed light on the theme of toxic masculinity, trauma and masculinity, and how it is formed and how it might be overcome in some cases.
“The film is about a man who can only find happiness by transcending this fear and abandoning an outdated view of what it is to be a man that should have become obsolete long ago,” says Wagner.
“During my research for the screenplay I was fortunate enough to meet Charles Eismayer and Mario Falak in person. I spent several hours with both of them, listening to their experiences and asking questions. I was even allowed to capture our discussions on camera. The more I got to know Charles and Mario and the more comfortable they became speaking to me, the more I knew that I wanted to make this film a reality,” Wagner continues.
“A story like this has never been captured on film in Austria, and it is high time that this changes. Not just because Eismayer is a legend among those who went through basic training here, but also because this story tears down our preconceptions and assumptions about masculinity and strength, then rebuilds them in a new way,” said producers Arash T. Riahi and Sabine Gruber.
“Primarily, however, it is a great story, simultaneously raw and poetic. It exudes passion, humanity and a love of life while exploring emotional conflicts that everybody can identify with — irrespective of sexual orientation. This is truthful, honest filmmaking that we support with everything we have at our disposal.”