Sebastian Meise’s a director that clearly has thematic obsessions: memory, time and human connection are present in each of the works that comprise his filmography, and his newest film is no different. As audiences follow Hans in and out of a West German prison for the 'crime' of being gay, they're guaranteed one of the best viewing experiences 2022 has yet to offer. This week, I’m talking about a movie which won Un Certain Regard at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, as well as the Golden Giraldillo at the Seville European Film Festival, culminating in Austria nominating it as their Best International Feature Film entry at the 94th Academy Awards: Great Freedom (2022).
You cannot talk about this movie without mentioning the cinematography. ‘Wow’ is the first thing that comes to mind. In terms of color, the film swings between a warm, almost honey-colored tone and a cold blue hue. This really helps capture the dichotic nature of the movie: as Hans struggles against the state, we’re shown the hope, love, and laughs that come with being alive, but also the loss, fear and pain that come with oppression. I don’t think this was done in a particularly obvious or heavy-handed way. Practicals and natural light are heavily emphasized, so each shot feels organic. I actually gasped at seeing how well-lit some scenes were.
I also have to commend the actors. Franz Rogowski’s portrayal of Hans is incredibly tender and human. Each line he delivers is powerfully subtle, brimming with emotion, making it easy for viewers to instantly connect with the protagonist. There's also Georg Friedrich, whose approach to the role of Viktor Kohl is lived-in, subdued while never sacrificing an almost-animalistic intensity; he captures the jaded nature of his character with precision and empathy, a description that can be applied to the film as a whole.
From the fantastic way it was shot to the wonderful script brought to life by powerful acting performances, this is easily one of the best movies you can watch this year. It'll make you laugh, it'll break your heart, it captures the full emotional spectrum of life in a heart-wrenching, delicate way. Now streaming on MUBI!
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