2022 LUX Audience Award: Great Freedom by Sebastian Meise
Sebastian Meise’s second feature film, Great Freedom, is one of the three titles competing for the 2022 LUX Audience Award, as announced during the 34th European Film Awards in December. The Austrian-German co-production was shortlisted by the members of the LUX Audience Award Selection Panel to vie for the pan-European audience award in its second edition. The voting process is already underway, and the winner will be decided based on the votes by the public and the members of the European Parliament. The other two titles in competition are Jasmila Žbanić’s Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria, Romania, France, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Norway, Turkey) and Flee by Jonas Poher Rasmussen (Denmark, France, Norway, Sweden).
After turning heads in 2011 with his feature debut, the disturbing Still Life, Meise presents another powerful story about a tortured man who spends most of his life in prison for being homosexual in post-war Germany. The film had its world premiere in Cannes in 2021 as part of the Un Certain Regard section (where it walked away with the Jury Prize), and has since gathered various accolades, including main prizes in Sarajevo and Seville, the CICAE Arthouse Cinema Award and two awards for Best European Cinematography and Original Score at the European Film Awards 2021. Moreover, the film has recently been shortlisted for the International Feature Film category in the 94th Oscars.
“A story of tragic fate in an era where love is treated as crime”, as stated by the Austrian filmmaker, who wrote the screenplay together with Thomas Reider, based on reports about gay men who were liberated from Nazi concentration camps and then forced to serve their remaining sentences in prison. German actor Franz Rogowski (who came to prominence with titles such as Victoria, Transit or Happy End) offers a superb performance in the lead role of Hans, a man who is regularly imprisoned under the notorious Paragraph 175, a provision that criminalized homosexual acts in Germany. The story unfolds during three different periods in the same prison, jumping back and forth between 1945, 1957 and 1968 (a year before the law was partially repealed), building a mesmerising narrative while offering an acute exploration of the main character and the German society during that time.
The director also described the film as depicting “a special relationship between two men in prison”, pointing at the turbulent affair between Hans and his cellmate Viktor (another brilliant performance by Austrian actor Georg Freidrich), a man convicted for murder who becomes the only recurring relation in Hans’ life throughout his different stays in prison. Over the years, the two men develop a caring but unstable connection, which brings to the surface hidden fears that expose the pain that comes with a life dominated by repression and a deep desire for liberation.
You can vote for the film on www.luxaward.eu by 25 May.