Why Great Freedom is worth your attention

A decade after his debut film Still Life was released, Austrian director Sebastian Meise is back with a follow-up, the tender-hearted prison-based drama Great Freedom. Broadway's Programme Coordinator, Kate Wood, explains why this film is worth your time this weekend. 

Time criss-crosses, depicting three periods of incarceration, in 1945, ’57 and ’68, for our protagonist Hans (Franz Rogowski), a repeat offender under Paragraph 175, whereby men were imprisoned for homosexual acts. We watch as, each time he’s returned to prison, Hans picks up his relationship with fellow inmate Viktor (Georg Friedrich), in for the long haul on a murder charge. How they relate to one another shifts with each meeting – hostile at first but eventually developing into something more complex and tender.

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“[Great Freedom] is an exquisite marriage of personal, political and sensual storytelling, its narrative and temporal drift tightened by another performance of quietly piercing vulnerability from Franz Rogowski”

Guy Lodge, Variety

Franz Rogowski is magnetic as Hans, infusing the character with both vulnerability and strength. Thankfully the film doesn’t go in for distracting aging make-up and instead allows its stars to convey the passing of time more subtly. When asked how he changed his performance for each period the film covers, Rogowski told NPR: “In the '40s, my choice was to just create a physical witness that is real. So, I lost a lot of weight. And then in the '50s, he's a very alert and physical guy. He's fighting the system. He's against the rules. And in the '60s, this man somehow arrived. He has – it's a bit weird to say, but he grew up.”

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Despite its difficult subject matter, Great Freedom is a hopeful and – albeit not exactly in the traditional sense – romantic film. Without diminishing the damage that Hans’ repeat sentences undoubtedly have on him, the film is about his ability to endure and remain receptive to intimacy in even the most unlikely places, and open and encouraging of change in others.

Great Freedom is screening from Friday 11 March. Tickets are now on sale. 

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