Scen.: Helmut Käutner, Richard Nicolas. F.: Werner Krien. M.: Anneliese Schönnenbeck. Scgf.: Max Mellin, Gerhard Ladner. Mus.: Werner Eisbrenner. Int.: Hans Albers (Hannes), Ilse Werner (Gisa), Hans Söhnker (Willem), Gustav Knuth (Fiete), Günther Lüders (Jens), Hilde Hildebrand (Anita), Ethel Reschke (Margot), Kurt Wieschala (Jan). Prod.: Hans Tost per Terra-Filmkunst GmbH. 35mm. D.: 110’. Col.
Käutner had problems with the Nazis from his very first film, a comedy called Kitty und die Weltkonferenz (Kitty and the World Conference, 1939) celebration of cosmopolitan ideas and freedom (and maybe some libertinage as well?) did not sit well with the dictatorship’s censors. That he could continue his career throughout the war relatively unhampered and even got the budget for a colour production might show how highly regarded he was as an artist; equally telling is that his outwardly most ‘conformist’ work of that period, Auf Wiedersehen, Franziska! (1943), proves to be a subtly subversive affair on a formal level… With Große Freiheit Nr. 7, now, Käutner created a world-weary melodrama whose doom-laden mood and non-conformist spirit were too much for the reigning powers. Among the ‘adjustments’ demanded was a change of the title: from Große Freiheit to Große Freiheit Nr. 7, to make it very clear that this was merely an address (a street in Hamburg’s St. Pauli district) and not a celebration of loose morals – even if the amorous triangle at the film’s heart is resolved in a chivalrous spirit when one of the guys quietly leaves, taking a ship out into the world. But: that there still was a world outside that a man could take refuge in; that even in wartime the red-light districts with their gaudy entertainments were in full swing offering (the illusion of) respite from the daily grind for a couple of bucks; that every song from La paloma (with lyrics by Käutner!) to the Hamburg-Hymne (when stopped at the right moment) seemed to talk about the Reich’s near defeat; and that love and sex were complicated matters not easily resolved, and maybe more important than nations and empires; – all that rolled into one got this masterpiece (in which not a single adverse word against the Nazis is ever uttered) immediately shelved. The film’s official premiere was a select audience screening on December 15th 1944 in Prague (where it was mostly shot); for its real release, the war had to end.