In post-war Germany Hans is imprisoned again and again for being homosexual. Due to paragraph 175 his desire for freedom is systematically destroyed. The one steady relationship in his life becomes his long time cell mate, Viktor, a convicted murderer. What starts as revulsion grows into something called love.
Sebastian Meise is an Austrian director and screenwriter. His acclaimed debut feature film STILLIFE premiered at San Sebastian IFF and won several awards such as Best Feature Film at Diagonale Film Festival. His documentary film OUTING was presented at the Hot Docs Festival in Toronto. His second feature film GREAT FREEDOM with German shooting star Franz Rogowski and Berlinale Silver bear awardee Georg Friedrich in the leading roles will have its world premiere in the Official Selection Un Certain Regard of the Cannes Film Festival 2021. He co-founded the Vienna based production company FreibeuterFilm.
2021 Great Freedom / Große Freiheit
2012 Outing (Documentary)
2011 Still Life / Stillleben
2006 Daemonen (Short)
2005 Random (Short)
2003 Prises de Vues (Short)
OF THE DIRECTOR
Imagine a world where love is forbidden by law and punished with imprisonment. What sounds like a dystopia was reality for gay men in Germany till the late 1960s. Paragraph 175 allowed the state to persecute homosexuals, which it did with great effort and meticulousness. This significant historical fact was completely new to me until I read reports about gay men who were liberated from concentration camps by the Allies, but were transferred straight to prison to serve their remaining sentences. Their persecution would not be over for them for decades. This was the starting point of our story. Our main character, Hans, exemplifies the many fates of men who ended up in prison over and over again, whose lives and relationships were destroyed, and whose stories disappeared in the files of bureaucracy. Hans’ story is told based on his imprisonments. The walls and bars become a recurring constant that turns into a never-ending time loop. Hans can’t stop being who he is. He needs to continue because love is the essence of human nature. His very existence is rebellion.
In prison, of all places, Hans finally finds love. And of all the people he could possibly imagine, he finds it with Viktor, a convicted murderer. In a tentative rapprochement, these two men, who could not be more different, learn to respect each other and eventually become confidants. Over the decades, an unexpected intimacy grows between them, and in the end they find themselves in a relationship that eludes definition. These two men, who are stigmatized for life, meet in their longing for love and freedom. A longing that, however strong the oppression may be, will always find a way.
For 123 years, Paragraph 175 criminalized homosexuals. Those convicted were sentenced to prison terms of up to ten years. During the postwar years 100,000 men were brought to trial in West Germany alone.
Paragraph 175 allowed authorities to intercept and confiscate love letters and to submit them to the court as evidence as well as to install cameras behind mirrors, encroaching on the privacy of these men, revealing their intimate lives, and exposing delicate personal details to the public. A scenario reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984.
Surveillance, blackmail, denunciation, torture, and murder. What had been imposed and executed by the judiciary during the Third Reich was condoned or tolerated in the postwar years. §175, which gave generations of gay men a name – 175er meant homosexual – did not continue to exist by oversight but was, over the decades, repeatedly examined, certified, and confirmed.
Thus for homosexuals, the liberation by the Allies did not mean freedom. Paragraph 175 (*1872) was made harsher by the Nazis and adopted unaltered by postwar Germany, so that concentration camp prisoners were transferred directly to prison in order to finish serving their lawful sentences.
It comes as no surprise, therefore, that gay men were not very empathetic and kept a low profile in the ’50s and ’60s. Being homosexual was itself a criminal offense. And until 1992, it was officially considered a mental illness.
The total ban on homosexuality remained in place until 1969. But it would take another 25 years for Paragraph 175 to completely disappear from the German civil code in 1994.
On July 22, 2017, Germany rehabilitated the postwar victims of Paragraph 175. Only a few lived to see this day. Depending on geography, discrimination, stigmatization, ostracism, criminalization, punishment, and the killing of homosexuals still prevails: one out of three countries punishes homosexuality.
Franz Rogowski worked as a dancer and performer at renowned German theaters such as "Schaubühne Berlin" and "Thalia Theater Hamburg” before being cast by Jakob Lass in FRONTALWATTE and LOVE STEAKS (Best Actor, 2013 Munich Film Festival). In 2015, he joined the Münchner Kammerspiele theatre, and at the same time solidified his on-screen credentials with leading roles in Sebastian Schipper‘s award-winning VICTORIA and Jan Henrik Stahlberg‘s BEDBUGS as well as in supporting roles for Michael Haneke’s HAPPY END and Terrence Malick’s A HIDDEN LIFE. He had leading roles in TRANSIT by Christian Petzold and IN THE AISLES by Thomas Stuber which both screened in the Official Competition of the Berlin International Film Festival. For the latter he received the German Filmprize LOLA. He was European Shooting Star 2018. His latest performance in UNDINE by Christian Petzold premiered at Berlinale Official Competition 2019.
The news magazine Profil described him as „Austria‘s wildest actor“ on the occasion of his award at the Berlinale 2017, 14 years after he was presented there as a shooting star: For his intense performance in Thomas Arslan‘s film BRIGHT NIGHT, Georg Friedrich was deservedly awarded Best Actor. It‘s another piece of the puzzle in a remarkable career that the actor, who was born in Vienna in 1966, has been displaying since the end of the last millennium. He has appeared in numerous national and international films and has collaborated with renowned directors, including Ulrich Seidl, Michael Haneke, Alexander Sokurov and Barbara Albert.
ANTON VON LUCKE
Anton von Lucke studied at the academy of Dramatic Arts “Ernst Busch” in Berlin. He played a lot of theater roles, including Shakespeare's Romeo in his first year. He first appeared in cinema when the French director François Ozon cast him as Frantz in the film of the same name which premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2016. As a result, the German directors Tom Tykwer, Achim von Borries and Henk Handloegten cast him as the mysterious young police officer Stefan Jänicke in their TV series BABYLON BERLIN, which was sold in over 100 countries all over the world and won several awards, the most recent coming from the European Film Academy for “European Achievement in Fiction“. In his latest role he performed in the acclaimed TV Series BAD BANKS.
The South Tyrolian actor studied at the prestigious Berlin Academy of Dramatic Arts "Ernst Busch".Thomas Prenn collaborated with renowned directors such as Volker Schlöndorff (DER NAMENLOSE TAG) and Terrence Malick (A HIDDEN LIFE) as well as Stefan Ruzowitzky & Michael Krummenacher (ACHT TAGE). For his exceptional performance in the role of Damian in the SCHWARZWALD TATORT, directed by Stefan Schaller, he was awarded the Studio Hamburg Young Talent Award 2019 and was nominated for the German Acting Award and the New Faces Award 2019.
His latest leading roles in the Austrian/Belgian drama WHY NOT YOU, directed by Evi Romen, and the Netflix series BIOHACKERS earned him international recognition as an upcoming talent. His latest performance was very well received in the highly anticipated web series project ICH BIN SOPHIE SCHOLL directed by Tom Lass.
DOP Crystel Fournier, afc
Production design Michael Randel
Costume design Tanja Hausner, Andrea Hölzl
Make up & Hair Heiko Schmidt, Roman Braunhofer, Kerstin Gaecklein
Casting Eva Roth, Benjamin Roth
Sound Jörg Theil, Atanas Tcholakov, Manuel Meichsner
Editing Joana Scrinzi, aea
Music Nils Petter Molvaer, Peter Brötzmann
Producers Sabine Moser, Oliver Neumann, Benny Drechsel
Screenplay Thomas Reider, Sebastian Meise
Director Sebastian Meise
The Match Factory GmbH
phone +49 221 539 709-0
WOLFGANG W. WERNER
Christiane Leithardt & Wolfgang Werner
phone +49 89 38 38 670
cell +49 175 588 80 86
cell +49 170 333 93 53
Original title: GROSSE FREIHEIT
International title: GREAT FREEDOM
Duration: 116 min
Aspect Ratio: 1:1,85 DCI Flat
Sound: Dolby Digital
Original language: German
Countries of production: Austria, Germany
Production Companies: FreibeuterFilm GmbH, Rohfilm Productions GmbH
With the support of: Austrian Film Institute (ÖFI), Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung (MDM), Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (BKM), German Federal Film Fund (DFFF), ORF Film/Fernseh-Abkommen, Film Industry Support Austria (FISA), Vienna Film Fund (FFW), Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg (MBB), ZDF, Piffl Medien
A production by FreibeuterFilm & Rohfilm Productions
Cast Franz Rogowski, Georg Friedrich, Anton von Lucke, Thomas Prenn
Screenplay Thomas Reider, Sebastian Meise Director Sebastian Meise
DOP Crystel Fournier, afc Production design Michael Randel Costume design Tanja Hausner, Andrea Hölzl
Make up & Hair Heiko Schmidt, Roman Braunhofer, Kerstin Gaecklein Casting Eva Roth, Benjamin Roth
Sound Jörg Theil, Atanas Tcholakov, Manuel Meichsner Editing Joana Scrinzi, aea Music Nils Petter Molvaer, Peter Brötzmann
Producers Sabine Moser, Oliver Neumann, Benny Drechsel
Supported by Austrian Film Institute (ÖFI), Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung (MDM),
Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (BKM), German Federal Film Fund (DFFF), ORF Film/Fernseh-Abkommen,
Film Industry Support Austria (FISA), Vienna Film Fund (FFW), Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg (MBB) and ZDF
Distributor Piffl Medien (GER) World Sales The Match Factory