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A frank story of homosexual love and tragedy made 85 years ago, featuring such amazing things as a same-sex dance hall and a drag ball as background to dramatic scenes. It still packs a wallop, thanks to its purpose as an impassioned plea for justice and a wonderful central performance by the Conrad Veidt. Kino has just released this reconstructed version of about 50 minutes, based in large part on a print discovered in Moscow, with intertitles and a few stills telling the rest. It's a an effective drama and a fascinating history lesson. A good bit is still missing, but the most amazing things turn up, so maybe more of Anders als die Andern will as well. To have this much is wonderful.
It's a wonder any of this film exists; if not for the wear of age (it's
said that most films of this era are lost), one would think censorship
and the Nazis would have annihilated it. Yet, much of the footage
remains. The Kino release of the reconstruction fills in the rest of
the story with explanatory intertitles and still photographs, nearing
the film's original runtime. That's the first wonder.
The second is its message of tolerance and understanding of homosexuals. Message films, social realist films, or "enlightenment films" were not too common in the silent era, probably because the lack of sound takes away from the capacity to lecture. Lois Weber is an exception that I'm familiar with; she made a career out of selling morals to audiences. "Different from the Others" includes the tact of a self-referential scene, which Weber broadened to more interesting depths in her best work. This is a film pleading for the equality of homosexuals, and it features a lecture within the lecture doing the same: the "sexoligist" Magnus Hirschfeld giving a slideshow presentation, which is attended by Else. I think it makes the film more honest, and, at the same time, it's a way for the filmmakers to be as blunt as possible.
It's difficult to appreciate the film aesthetically, anymore. The gay nightclub scenes are frank, but the film seems to shy away from too much intimacy between homosexuals. "Philadelphia" (1993) has been criticized for it's lack of a kiss, too, so I suppose it's asking too much of a film from 1919. The camera-work appears rather static, as well. On the other hand, Conrad Veidt was an admirable man and quite an actor. This is as much bravery from a prominent actor as you'll ever see. And, he was outspoken against the Nazis, as opposed to Emil Jannings, probably the other major male star of German silent film. Although Veidt's performance is much in the style of the time, he shows the right balance of effeminacy without being stereotypical.
Other than Veidt, the film isn't of much entertainment or artistic value. The film's message, however, is very important, even today; as the reconstruction introduction says, Germany, while a generally liberal government and populace today, Paragraph 175 wasn't repealed until 1994. And, there's the marriage debate in the US and elsewhere. "Different from the Others" is powerful in that way.
"Anders als die Andern" (Different from the Others) is a 1919 German
film starring Conrad Veidt that was pieced together and shown at one
point on public television. About a law on the books that makes
homosexuality a crime, it had a very short run in Germany before being
pulled, and people who attended the movie were harassed.
The lead is played by a German actor familiar to American audiences, usually for portraying a bad guy, Conrad Veidt. Despite dying in 1943, Veidt had a nearly 30-year career in films. Here he plays possibly the first gay character in cinema who, with such a law in place, is a target for a blackmailer.
A very interesting film with a wonderful performance by Veidt. Only part of the movie remains, but it has been put together as well as can be expected - it is, after all, a mere 87 years old. It's amazing how relevant some of the material in it remains today.
It is hard to vote for this film, because it is really just the shreds
of a film. The odd thing is that ONLY the parts of the story relevant
to gay sensibilities remain: the relationship between the violinist
Paul Körner (Veidt) and his youthful protegé, the scenes of all-male
partying, Paul making a pass at the man who turns out to be a
blackmailer, and apparently the slide-show lecture on the sexual
continuum (though perhaps this was reconstructed from the historical
sexologist's actual slide shows?). Besides this, there is the skeleton
of the legal plot: Paul reading about suicides and knowing what's
behind it, the judge giving the blackmailer 3 years and Paul one week,
and Paul coming home to kill himself.
What you don't see is any scene at all with a woman in it, except for one where young Paul runs in terror from a whorehouse. Evidently there were two sets of parents and a young woman all active in the original film, and they all ended up being cut from the final film.
There is not much development of the character of the boy Paul loves--it is not quite clear from the end whether he mourns Paul as a self-sacrificing friend, a great violinist, or the love of his life. Paul himself, in an extended flashback, evidently realized he was gay at the moment a whore kissed him; the fill-in titles explain that a young woman of dubious morals kissed the boy at a point after his story has disappeared from the surviving clips of the film. So presumably the boy has realized that, since he does not like being kissed by a woman, he must be gay and love Paul after all. It's an odd logic, redeemed only by Veidt's combination of sensuality and morality (great moment when he starts eagerly kissing a pick-up and then is horrified when the man asks for money).
Veidt is pretty amazing. The man played vampires or at least exotic sexual predators, Jews, Nazis in Allied films, a Devil's Island inmate--every kind of marginal monster; in one movie he seems to be playing Jesus. When he played kings, he played them mad and/or deformed. Yet he gave every character an edge, a dignity, a strength that made you feel it wasn't right if he got shot in the back. In this film, he looks rather like Cesare from Cabinet of Dr. Caligari but the same skeletal-elegant physique and haunted quality (and haunted makeup) become expressions of human sorrow, longing, and a frail nobility of character.
It is interesting to compare this film to Victim, made 42 years later. In both stories, the protagonist is a man who discovered and explored his sexual feelings for other men as a schoolboy; as a mature adult, having achieved a position of great prestige, he becomes involved in an unconsummated relationship with a much younger man who admires him passionately. In both stories, a law makes homosexuals an easy target of blackmailers, and both men attempt to defy the blackmailers and the law. In the 1919 movie, however, Körner, after attempting to redirect his sexual desires by various means, accepts himself as the way he is and lives a gay lifestyle (or so we may assume from his activities at the drag ball). When he is confronted with the prospect of marriage, he sends his parents or prospective girlfriend to a sexologist so that they, too, can accept him as he is. If he does not try to seduce his protegé, it is presumably from a sense that it would be wrong to exploit his position of power over a very young, indeed virginal, student (and the boy is horrified when he realizes that the relationship is potentially sexual). Melvin Farr, on the other hand, has succeeded in redirecting his sexual desires: he is married to a cool blonde and together they are confident that he is, if not completely heterosexual, completely monogamous. No gay bars for him. The boy with whom he is in love, on the other hand, is frankly gay and would like to seduce his hero. In both stories, the tragic "victim" is the man who, openly and unreservedly gay, is vulnerable to blackmail, tries to protect the man he loves, and finally kills himself. The earlier movie has a distinguished doctor arguing that there is a sexual continuum which is natural and good, and should not be subject to legal penalties or blackmail; the later movie just has examples of presumably good (eminent) men who happen to have secret homosexual sides, and the hero's nobility lies in going to bat for a working-class boy who could not keep his own sexuality secret.
I am struck by the fact that both the tragic victims look physically frail--thin, as if worn to a bone in the hope that if they turn sideways they will be overlooked by society. Both the ambiguously sexual survivors are heartier types, physically more solid and substantial, though of course Dirk Bogarde could out-edge even Veidt.
Conrad Veidt plays a famous musician who is blackmailed for being gay.
Eventually he stands trial and is convicted. At the end the Film pleads for
the abolition of § 175(The Paragraph which punishes homosexuality).
The making of such a film was only possible because after WWI there were no Censorship laws in Germany. After a wave of sexually explicit films they were reinstalled and 'Anders als die andern' was banned for the public in Aug.1920. Not until 1957 would homosexuality be a main topic in a film again (Anders als Du und Ich).
Sadly this historic film is lost. But Portions of it were incorporated into another film (Gesetze der Liebe/Laws of Love,1927) and survived. These have been restored to a length of 41 min..
Interesting early film dealing with homosexuality and the laws in
Germany at the time making it a crime punishable by a prison sentence.
About a famous violin virtuoso, Paul (played by Conrad Veidt), who
after a concert one evening is approached by a handsome young man named
Kurt who idolizes and has a youthful crush on the older man. Kurt
dreams of taking lessons from his idol, so visits the kimono-dressed
man in his apartments where he is soon being given private violin
lessons. The two men quickly become closer and closer, playing duets
together on violin and piano, and taking strolls in the park arm and
arm, but unfortunately a blackmailer sees them in the park - and seizes
upon an opportunity to make himself some quick "hush money".
Interestingly, the blackmailer himself hangs out in a nightclub full of
women dressed as men, and pairs of men dancing together, which made me
wonder - is he out to find himself another victim for blackmail here or
is he himself?
This film is a reconstruction containing fragments, strung together in a well-done manner with intertitles and still photos describing and portraying the missing scenes. The print for the scenes that are intact look quite nice here, the music is appropriate and pleasing. Parts of the film almost come across as instructional, including a lecture given by a sexologist featuring a slide show of males and females mostly in various states of cross-dress. Conrad Veidt gives a very well-done, touching performance here, really giving off a keen sense of the strong relationship and love felt between Paul and Kurt. Well worth seeing.
This film stars Conrad Veidt and came "out" on the heels of Cabinet of Dr. Caligari's success (1919). It was banned after a short run in Germany where theater goers were harassed at showings. It seems very brave of Conrad Veidt and the makers of the film to make a sympathetic, sexually charged film about homosexuals in 1919. The story is about a man who is blackmailed after making advances on a stranger he meets at a men only dance. Found in the 1970's, the remaining footage is a testament to the great forward thinking German Expressionist film makers. Available on video from Facets, this film will appeal to film historians, Conrad Viedt fans, and gay groups.
This film deals with a prosperous man who encounters a sleazy blackmailer
who discovers that he is gay. (This silent rarity is a good reason for
A much later film "Victim", deals with a similar subject.
Two male musicians fall in love, but blackmail and scandal makes the
affair take a tragic turn.
Director Richard Oswald was bold in making this film and pushing the message that homosexuality was not a crime but a failure of society to be accepting. Especially at the time when homosexuality was blatantly illegal in Germany. Not surprisingly, the film was soon banned and almost completely destroyed.
Conrad Veidt was also bold for starring in it, even if he had not yet been made into a star for "Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" the following year. This was at least Veidt's second time working with Oswald, having just finished up "Uncanny Stories".
The plot is interesting in making the presentation that homosexuality is normal (definitely a minority view at the time) and the real crime was extortion from those who would blackmail closeted men. Although neither Oswald nor Veidt were gay, they clearly had sympathy for their brethren (Veidt was later better known for standing up for the Jewish community).
It's a shame that about half of this film is lost, deliberately
destroyed by the Nazis. What is odd is that probably the tamest
portions of the film are missing - the parts with Paul Körner (Conrad
Veidt) and his family, and the parts in which Paul interacts with Else,
the girl who loves him. The parts that are missing though are
masterfully replaced by still shots and enough inter-titles that you
get a pretty good idea of how Paul gets along with his family.
The film was made after World War I during a brief time of relative tolerance for homosexuality in Germany, and rather than try to be titillating, the film tries to teach of the problems with the German law that made it a crime to be homosexual. Paul Körner is a famous violin virtuoso who harbors a terrible secret - he's gay and constantly in fear of being discovered and prosecuted under the law. As a result, you realize that Paul is a rather sad and lonely man despite his professional success, unable to openly express himself and look for a life-partner out in the open. Things change when Paul takes on a pupil, Kurt Sivers, a young man who idolizes Paul. Paul seems to really fall for Kurt, but you can tell that Kurt is still somewhat unsure of what to make of his own feelings at this point. Unfortunately, Kurt's sister Else loves Paul too, not knowing that Paul is unable to return the sentiment.
Paul is also being hounded by a blackmailer who first met him in a gay dance hall. When Paul mistook the blackmailer's advances as romantic, he took him back to his home and there the man spurned Paul and demanded money. You get the impression he's been hounding him ever since that time. What is odd is that the gay dance hall where he and Paul first met almost seems to be the blackmailer's second home, so I have to wonder why the blackmailer isn't afraid of being blackmailed himself.
There's a well done set of scenes with Paul looking back on his life - his adolescence at boarding school specifically - and the trouble he had there on account of his orientation. There's even a scene with a sexologist lecturing on homosexuality - oddly enough, this is how Paul explains to Else the truth of who he is and that his rejection of her is not personal.
Highly recommended as a good reconstruction of a lost silent film.
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