The fact that gay men in postwar Germany were released from concentration camps by the Allies only to be thrown back into jail, an almost forgotten chapter in history that he revisits in “Great Freedom,” troubled Austrian director Sebastian Meise.
“Every narrative we tell is about people and human beings and trying to comprehend something about life or existence Meise explained his decision to deal with this chapter of history, which has gotten good reviews all across the world. The film is set in postwar Germany, where the liberation of the Allies does not mean that everyone is free.
Hans (a mesmerizing performance by German actor Franz Rogowski) is constantly imprisoned for violating Paragraph 175, which makes homosexuality illegal. Hans establishes an odd bond with his initially unfriendly cellmate, a murdered inmate named Victor, played by Georg Fried rick, over the decades he spends in prison.
What more Great Freedom Director Sebastian Meise Says?
“Great Freedom” premiered in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2021 Cannes Film Festival and received the jury prize. It was also Austria’s Oscar submission for best international feature film this year.
The film is presently available to watch on MUBI India. The director, who made his lauded directorial debut with “Still Life” in 2011, was struck by the never-ending persecution gay men faced at the hands of the Allies, who were viewed as liberators.”I was reading about Hamburg’s LGBT past.
Then there were tales of gay individuals being rescued from concentration camps by the Allies and immediately transported to prison to serve out their sentences. The fact that homosexuality was still prohibited to such a degree bothered me.
Of course, I was aware that homosexuality was formerly banned, but it felt so far away. I was unaware of the full scope of the persecution, as well as the state’s efforts in chasing all of these seemingly innocuous folks.
It was wonderful, and it lasted for decades,” Meise told PTI in a Zoom interview from Vienna. The German Criminal Code, paragraph 175, rendered homosexual actions between males illegal in 1871.
In 1935, as part of the most brutal persecution of homosexual males in history, the Nazis extended the statute. The law in West Germany was changed in 1969 and 1973 after WWII. In the end, it was repealed.
The delicate connection that Hans and Victor form throughout their time in jail is at the heart of “Great Freedom,” a story of a man’s never-ending struggle for dignity and existence in the face of state persecution. AS a result, according to the director, his picture is also about “guilt and atonement.”