Great Freedom (2022) Film Review

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The Triumph of Love: A Powerful Story of Bravery and Connection in Great Freedom


In the post-war era of Germany, being a homosexual was considered a criminal offense, with paragraph 175 of the Constitution treating homosexuality as an illicit act. In the film Great Freedom, director Sebastian Meise brings to life the story of Hans, a gay man facing imprisonment multiple times throughout the years due to his sexual orientation. The film follows Hans’ journey through three specific stints in prison, highlighting his unlikely friendship with Viktor, a straight man who gradually becomes his confidant. This article dives into the captivating narrative of Great Freedom, exploring the historical context of Germany’s treatment of homosexuality, the rebellious nature of the protagonist, and the powerful themes of love and companionship that resonate throughout the film.

The Harsh Reality of Paragraph 175

Before exploring deeper into Great Freedom, it is crucial to understand the historical backdrop against which the film unfolds. Germany, until 1969, criminalized homosexuality under the legal clause known as Paragraph 175. Even after World War II ended, homosexuals did not receive the same freedom as others. Confirmed gay individuals were sent directly from concentration camps to prison, serving additional time beyond their days spent in the camps. Law enforcement agencies went to great lengths to ensure the imprisonment of homosexually active gay men, even installing cameras behind mirrors in public restrooms to catch them in the act. The opening montage of the film, showcasing homosexual encounters, possibly depicts footage collected from such surveillance cameras, acting as evidence to sentence individuals like Hans.

A Rebellious Celebration of Homosexuality

While the montage of homosexual acts presented in Great Freedom serves as evidence against Hans, it also reflects a rebellious celebration of homosexuality. Despite the prevalent hunt and prosecution of gay men, the enclosed space where the men perform these acts unknowingly under surveillance becomes a safe haven for them to unapologetically express their true selves. In a society that criminalizes their existence, their rebellion lies in simply being themselves. Hans stands out as an initiator, unafraid to express his sexuality despite the potential persecution. His willingness to take risks, such as disobeying orders and enduring harsh conditions, demonstrates his refusal to succumb to systemic oppression and showcases the strength of his love for other men.

The Power of Love in the Face of Adversity

Great Freedom intricately weaves a narrative that highlights the triumph of love even in the most challenging circumstances. While hope drives motivations in many stories set in prisons, such as The Shawshank Redemption, love takes center stage in Great Freedom. Hans’ imprisonment stems from a society fearful of his love, making it within the prison walls that he finds genuine connection. His profound and enduring bond with Viktor transcends the confines of their imprisonment. The initial act of support from Viktor, who realizes that Hans is no different from any other man, sets the foundation for a friendship that spans decades. Whether they end up in the same cell or not, they always find a way back to each other. Viktor’s unwavering presence represents the unwavering power of love, even within the confines of a prison cell.

The Rebellion Within Hans

Hans’ continuous return to prison is a testament to his rebellious nature. By merely existing as a homosexual, he defies a law that deems his sexuality offensive. Moreover, Hans refuses to comply and hide his true self outside of prison, accepting the consequences that come with his defiance. He is a passionate individual who refuses to submit to the inhumane demands imposed by paragraph 175. While his res