Prisoner of Desire

Great Freedom

Director: Sebastian Meise

Cast: Franz Rogowski, Georg Friedrich, Anton von Lucke, Thomas Prenn

Running Time: 1 hour 56 minutes

This film is in German with English Subtitles

Please note this film is sexuality explicit and contains images of drug use

Austrian director Sebastian Meise’s intensely explicit homosexual prison drama Great Freedom won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival and is held together by two powerful performances by Franz Rogowski who plans renown homosexual Hans Hoffman and Georg Friedrich (Narcissus and Goldmund) who plays fellow prisoner and frequent drug user Viktor.

Hans is imprisoned under paragraph 175 for being homosexual when in post-war Germany homosexuality was criminalized. Even though Germany has been liberated by the Allies at the end of World War II, paragraph 175 still remains law and Hans tries to survive in prison by doing sewing and occasionally snatching brief sexual liaisons with younger gay men in prison, specifically played by Anton von Lucke as Leo Griese and Thomas Prenn as Oskar. However, the precocious Hans is for ever in trouble often being sent to solitary confinement.

Soon Hans befriends his cellmate Viktor who is so called straight but despite their different sexual preference, a bond of loyalty and love begins to form within the claustrophobic environment of a men’s prison in post-war Germany.

As the years pass, Hans manages to free the younger men including Leo and Oskar, however he remains in prison with Viktor until the revision of paragraph 175 in Germany in the early 1970’s. After Hans and Viktor’s relationship intensifies, the revision of paragraph of 175 allows Hans to go free.

As Hans realizes his new freedom and explores the sexual permissibility of 1970’s Germany he is forced to make a difficult choice. Great Freedom is a tender and explicit look at love in an impossible time and chronicle’s a struggle for equality for the LGBT community at a time when any deviant lifestyle was subjected to scrutiny and strict criminalization.

German actor Franz Rogowski is brilliant as the beautiful Hans Hoffman, an imprisoned gay man who bares all in an exceptionally provocative performance which makes such American portrayals of gay men in films like Milk or Brokeback Mountain positively tame.

Rogowski is superb as a stoic sexual deviant Hoffman in a world which was completely against him and made his life extremely difficult. The ending of Great Freedom is clever in it’s ambiguity supplanting a social crime with an actual one.

In a similar vein to the excellent Kiss of the Spiderwoman, director Sebastian Meise’s brilliant Great Freedom is a provocative gay prison drama involving a fight for equal rights and an unbridled passion between two lovers fuelled by suppressive captivity. Great Freedom gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is recommended viewing especially for the LGBT community.

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