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Barbara Bel Geddes,
In Great Freedom no. 7 we are once again faced with an excellent piece of film work by the mid-century German master, Helmut Kautner. The story, as is common with his films, focuses on a love triangle and also uses sailors and their transitory way of life as a complication to this triangular arrangement as he does in Under the Bridges. He also reprises the theme of musicianship which he uses for characters in most of his films, from the composers in In Those Days and Romance in a Minor Key.
As usual for Kautner, the film employs a more mobile and freewheeling camera. Zooms and pans are used to convey shifts in relationships, for example when Gisa is talking to her mother just before leaving the farm.
Of particular note in this film is the dream sequence experienced by Hannes. Through this sequence Kautner explores the possibilities of manipulating colors, pushing the boundaries of the new technology. His use of form in this sequence is also worthy of discussion. The slanting angles and semi-realistic sets that he uses, especially when Hannes and Willem are fighting on the ship, are reminiscent of the German Impressionist films of three decades before. This application of an earlier film style is particularly well suited to the content of those scenes, as German expressionism was an attempt to externalize onto the environment the internal attitudes of the characters its modes and tropes lend themselves quite well to hallucinations and dream sequences.
In this film Kautner once again presents a sort of timeless, a political Germany. Even though the film was produced under the grip of one of the most brutal regimes in history, and was a thorn in the side of Joseph Goebbels, there are no traces of the political climate of the day, let alone anything resembling propaganda. The characters exist in a Germany that is modern and recognizable, but is clearly not the Germany that the audience knows. This feature of Kautner's films during the war years seems to have been an attempt to remind people of their essential humanity, even among the horrors of war and the domination of a brutal government.
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