An excerpt from the booklet essay by Jason Wood

Catalan director Albert Serra delights in provocation and in creating ‘unashamedly radical cinema that simultaneously seeks true beauty around historic and philosophical fault lines, where good and bad become irrelevant terms’ (International Film Festival Rotterdam catalogue). The winner of the Special Jury Prize from Un Certain Regard in Cannes, Liberté - based on the aforementioned play at the Volksbühne and then a two-screen installation at the Reina Sofia in Madrid - stridently pushes a number of boundaries and revels in being audaciously perverse and amorphous. With a title that offers a play on the word libertine, in an increasingly conservative landscape the film feels all the more remarkable. Writing in Artforum, Dennis Lim described it as ‘a truly free cinema… one that still believes in the possibility of subversion.’

1774, shortly before the French Revolution, somewhere between Potsdam and Berlin. Madame de Dumeval, the Duc de Tesis (Théodora Marcadé) and the Duc de Wand (Baptiste Pinteaux), libertines expelled from the puritanical court of Louis XVI, seek the support of the legendary Duc de Walchen (Helmut Berger), German seducer and freethinker, lonely in a country where hypocrisy and false virtue reign. Their mission is to export libertinage, a philosophy of enlightenment founded on the rejection of moral boundaries and authorities, but moreover to find a safe place to pursue their errant games, where the quest for pleasure no longer obeys laws other than those dictated by unfulfilled desires.


Beautifully shot by Artur Tort, who also acts as one of the film’s editors along with Ariadna Ribas and Serra, the pansexual exploits of these pre-revolutionary libertines unfold in eighteenth century woodland. The lighting, costume design (Rosa Tharrats won a Gaudí, the main film award in Catalan) and sound design is striking. I can think of few films where the sound of crickets provide so thrilling an accompaniment to acts involving masturbation, urolagnia, sexual humiliation and sadomasochism and on a technical level this is undoubtedly the work of a master filmmaker. The French Rococo period, a period synonymous with the libertine and the courtesan, is beautifully evoked, with references to Antoine Watteau (1684-1721), François Boucher (1703-1770) and Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) all points of visual reference. There are verbal allusions too. ‘The first speech is an excerpt from Casanova’s memoirs that Michel Foucault commented on as an example of the extreme and arbitrary cruelty of power, and hence the State,’ comments Serra. The performances are perfect, with Serra mixing non-professional performers, theatre actors, friends and even members of his crew, the director adopts what Andréa Picard, writing on the film for The Toronto International Film Festival describes as ‘a Warholian approach to the Sadean activities.’ Veteran actor Berger, whose exhaustive credits include Visconti’s The Damned (1969) and Ludwig (1973), is a masterful presence throughout.


Jason Woods' complete essay, from which this excerpt is taken, appears in the booklet which accompanies the release.

Disc Info

France, 2019
Liberté: 138 mins
Special feature: 33 minutes
Sound: 5.1 DTS-HD master audio / 2.0 Stereo LPCM (48k/24-bit)
Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Language: French, German
Subtitles: English

Blu-ray: BD50 / 1080 / 24fps Region ABC (Region Free)

Blu-Ray: £19.99
Release Date: 11 Jan 2021


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