“Freund” is a war story that needs to be understood. It begins forlorn, with haunting music and the quote—"I know. I was there. I saw the great void in your soul, and you saw mine.” -Sebastian Faulks, famous for his WWI historical novel Birdsong.
We cut to rain, piano music and a photo of some loved ones. The German sniper strokes the photo. He is emotionally invested in surviving this war. I am personally invested because war is tragic and I naturally want everyone to survive and return to their families and friends.
The sniper, Dieter, and his partner are waiting for the enemy to come out of the woods. It feels like routine but at the same time feels emotionally draining. Dieter is homesick. It’s raining and they will have to shoot many more people before the war is over, if they don’t die too.
The cinematography was amazing, especially the shots through the rifle. They made the story personal and impersonal at the same time. We watch as our sniper kills several Americans. We see their faces and their deaths. The reality of war sinks in. Soldiers kill and are killed. I wonder in the back of my mind if each of those soldiers carried their own keepsakes from home.
One of the Americans makes it all the way to our sniper as he’s checking his rifle. They have a tense show down face to face. The American has run out of ammo. Dieter has a chance to take his enemy down but then he sees the man’s personal items, including a cross. He asks about a stuffed bear. The American answers, “It’s my daughter’s.” He shows Dieter a photo of his own wife and daughter. They share a moment of friendship. They both want to go home and have people who miss them. They are tired and want to survive. They’re bound for a moment by the psychological effects of war.
Suddenly we hear more Germans coming. The new friends fake the American’s death. A German soldier sees that one of the Americans on the field isn’t dead so he finishes him off. Meanwhile the commanding officer asks Dieter if he’s had any problems. He says no. The soldier on the field has shot each of the American’s bodies. It’s obvious he will come and shoot our American friend, who we see is whispering his last prayer. Dieter checks his rifle, it still has ammo. The screen goes black and we hear a gun shot.
In “Freund” we see the struggle between two enemies who kindle a seemingly short-lived friendship. Dieter will no doubt carry the memory of this day with him for the rest of his life. It would be interesting to see a part two that explores Dieter’s post-war life with PTSD.
The scenes flowed with a natural rhythm. The acting was believable. The soundtrack enhanced the emotions Dieter goes through. The American’s personal items should have looked more worn out. Even though the story is about a German, the impact of war on individuals is universal. It doesn’t matter what side you’re on, you have to make hard decisions to ensure your own safety.