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Georg Wilhelm Pabst
German film in which a sensitive girl is sent to an all-girls boarding school and develops a romantic attachment to one of her teachers. One of the earliest narrative films to explicitly portray homosexuality. Written by
Black Francis <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Mädchen in Uniform is clearly a wonderful portrayal of sexuality in film, but what exactly is the sexuality that is portrayed?
Mädchen in Uniform is a very impressive German film that presents an unusual sexual awakening in an equally unusual situation, which leads to some complex content to analyze. It is clearly the presentation of a sexuality that is not considered normal, but it is not necessarily a lesbian film. I think that the fact that there is not a single man in the film and, even more, the intimate relationship between Manuela and Fräulein von Bernburg, give the impression that there is a strong lesbian undertone in the film, but I don't think that it was meant to be seen that way. It seemed to me that it was more of a coming of age film than a lesbian film.
I think that Mädchen in Uniform was the portrayal of a girl who needed a higher than average amount of attention and who was reaching the age where her sexuality was beginning to take form, and because she was in an all-girl school and had no male influence in her life, she attached to the most accessible person who could fulfill those needs - Fräulein von Bernburg. It seemed to me that Manuela became so amorously attached to Fräulein von Bernburg more because of a lack of options than because of an interest in the same sex. There is undeniably a lot of female/female eroticism in the film (such as that goodnight kiss), but I don't think that it is a portrayal of lesbianism. It seems to me that the film has at least as much to say about budding sexuality and freedom of exploration for teenagers as it does about homosexuality.
Manuela's needs for attention (and the same need harbored by the other girls in the film) was most directly presented in the scene where Fräulein von Bernburg comes through the room to kiss the girls goodnight one by one. In the novel Swann's Way, Marcel Proust presents a character who is so obsessed with his goodnight kiss from his mother that he literally fantasizes about it all day, and then is miserable after she kisses him because he will have to wait so long before he gets that attention from her again. He is completely dependent on that kiss, and in that gigantic novel, a large part of the reason that he is so obsessed with his mother's kiss is because he is largely isolated from the outside world an has an emotionally distant father. His only source of affectionate attention is from his mother, and it is portrayed in a way that almost seems incestuous because he loves so much to feel his mothers lips on his face. This is the same thing that is going on in Mädchen in Uniform, except in a slightly different form.
Now, whether or not Mädchen in Uniform is, in fact, a lesbian film, there are definitely some typical stereotypes derailed in the close of the movie. Manuela was driven to the point of suicide by the adults at the all-girl school she attended, and it was the children who had to come in to save her (which is an element of the story that strengthens the assertion that it supports freedom for teenagers, who are clearly able to make wise decisions on their own), and there is also the fact that she did not commit suicide, which is significant because it would have been the stereotypical way for a woman (especially a homosexual woman) to respond to a stressful situation that she cannot control.
It seemed to me that in that way, the movie broke down a some stereotypes, but it is important to really analyze the film so that we can see what, if any, stereotypes are applied to the characters and to the story. The sexuality in the film is obviously not traditional, but one must take into account the circumstances under which that sexuality is portrayed before one can decipher a specific message from the film.
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