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FREUNDE

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by E. W. Emo

grade: 6.5

Perfectly in line with the Austrian cinema of the time, Freunde stages a sentimental drama, in which, however, there is no reference to the war that had just ended. The story of the three protagonists is set in the 1940s, but could take place in any historical period.

Two friends, one woman

In 1962, the great François Truffaut shot what would become one of the masterpieces of film history: Jules and Jim. The story of two friends in love with the same woman, who, nevertheless, for years defended their friendship, fascinated and still fascinates viewers of all ages. Beyond the mastery with which the film was made, beyond the excellent performances of the lead actors, we must recognise how love triangles have always appealed to viewers and readers of all ages. The same applies to Freunde, a feature film directed by E. W. Emo in 1945, in which a long-standing friendship is threatened precisely by the love for a woman.

Gottfried (played by Attila Hörbiger) and Guido (Ferdinand Marian) have been friends since school. During a stay at Gottfried’s house, Guido falls in love with the latter’s cousin, arousing his friend’s jealousy. Following an argument between the two, a shotgun accidentally goes off and Guido loses an eye. After this accident, the two decide that no woman will ever ruin their friendship. Things will change, however, many years later, when charming Alix (Hana Vítová) enters their lives.

Freunde, then, is the story of a long friendship, but also of troubled love. A long flashback reveals Guido and Alix’s past, while, at the same time, we witness the turmoil at Gottfried’s house (who is about to marry Alix himself) as the two former lovers meet. Perfectly in line with the Austrian cinema of those years, Freunde stages a sentimental drama, in which, however, there is no reference to the war that had just ended. The story of the three protagonists is set in the 1940s, but could take place in any historical period. With such universal connotations, therefore, the drama focuses exclusively on the feelings of the characters, foregrounding their memories, their inner conflicts and their desires for revenge.

Particularly noteworthy in this regard are the intense close-ups of their faces, as well as the shots focusing on objects that play a decisive role in the story or locations that immediately become the scene of the most significant moments. E. W. Emo – one of the few directors who remained in Austria during World War II – specialised in such dramas, in which everything revolved exclusively around the characters, often forgetting an ‘important’ historical context. Similarly, we note that in Freunde there is practically no subplot, nor any expedient to make the whole thing ‘lighter’.

Yet the story of this love triangle undoubtedly enthralls. And it does so above all thanks to a classic and unpretentious setting, to important moral dilemmas which are handled in a never trivial way and to three great performers who have, each in their own way, made Austrian (and world) film history. It is also thanks to them that Freunde is effectively a timeless feature film. It is also thanks to them that the three protagonists seem on screen more alive than ever.

Original title: Freunde
Directed by: E. W. Emo
Country/year: Austria, Germany / 1945
Running time: 88’
Genre: drama, romance
Cast: Attila Hörbiger, Ferdinand Marian, Hana Vítová, Rudolf Reiff, Norbert Rohringer, Sonja Ziemann, Hilde von Stolz, Rudolf Stadler, Ernst Reitter, Wilhelm Schmidt, Hermann Erhardt, Elisabeth Grietsch, Rudolf Rab
Screenplay: Gerhard Menzel
Cinematography: Hans Schneeberger
Produced by: Wien Film

Info: the page of Freunde on iMDb