Most prison movies do not ackowledge the fact of same-sex love. Most prison movies go out of their way to ignore it. There are exceptions, such as Fortune and Men's Eyes (1971), Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985), and the jail episode of Todd Haynes' portmanteau work Poison (1991). Grosse Freiheit rises above all of these by dint of its complete absence of sentimentality, the power of its performances, its complex but clearly-told time-frame, and its commitment to effectively portraying love in the hearts of otherwise lost souls. It carefully weaves imagery that would not be out of place in a novel into the story of Germany's incessant persecution of homosexual men, which only stopped when the hated paragraph 175 of the German Penal Code was reformed in 1969.
The film runs on three time lines, in the three decades during which the central character, Hans Hoffman, finds himself in jail for pursuing his desires. Production design and, especially, make-up and costume, work with enormous tact but great effectiveness to conjure up each era. The structure of the film, its story-telling, is really beautifully put together.
There are really only four main characters, of which two are our main concern. They are played brilliantly by Georg Friedrich and, as Hoffman himself, Franz Rogowski, in as shattering a screen performance as you'll ever see.
The final section of the film is perhaps a little glib, but it's a very small flaw in an otherwise masterly movie.
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In post-war Germany, not everybody can enjoy freedom. Hans, a man who undergoes repeated prison time as he keeps being punished for his desires, experiences its passage differently from his recurring cellmate Viktor, a convicted murderer in it for the long haul. We begin in 1968, with Hans again arriving in prison. Viktor, an amateur tattoo artist, offers to cover up the camp number on Hans' forearm. Over time, the two men will exchange moments of exposure and need. Their bond is shadowed throughout by Viktor's deep-rooted homophobia and Paragraph 175, which criminalizes homosexuality. Despite all this, Hans and Viktor develop an unlikely bond. —Frank Liesenborgs
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
April 12, 2022 at 05:29 PM