Bremen Freedom (Bremer Freiheit)

Institute History

  • 1997 Sundance Film Festival


Originally produced on German television, Bremen Freedom was adapted by Fassbinder from his stage play about a woman who systematically poisons all the people in her life who are trying to control and oppress her, mostly men. The story is based on actual events which occurred in the 1830s, when a woman named Geesche Gottfried killed fifteen people and was beheaded in the last public execution in Bremen.

Fassbinder is not concerned with the murders (he only shows a couple of them); what he is interested in is the fact that a woman in this male-dominated society cannot accomplish anything through love and understanding but only through murder. Ironically, although Geesche attains her immediate goal, there is always someone to take the oppressor’s place. In the long run, as critic Wilhelm Roth points out, murder “is no victory, but a capitulation, an act of desperation. At the end . . . there is no independence, but only loneliness.” In her determination to shape her own life, Geesche anticipates later self-willed Fassbinder heroines like Maria Braun.

Bremen Freedom is very stylized black comedy. The set is practically empty to focus attention on images of the harbor, ocean, and huge, threatening rushes projected on the back wall. Movement is heavily choreographed, and the acting is highly exaggerated and artificial.

— Barbara Bannon

Screening Details

  • Section: Rainer Werner Fassbinder: Modern Renaissance Man
  • Film Type: Dramatic Feature
  • Country: Germany
  • Run Time: 87 min.
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