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Max is gay and as such is sent to Dachau concentration camp under the Nazi regime. He tries to deny he is gay and gets a yellow label (the one for Jews) instead of pink (the one for gays). In camp he falls in love with his fellow prisoner Horst, who wears his pink label with pride. Written by
The original Broadway play on which this filmed production was based, "Bent" opened at the New Apollo Theater in New York on December 2, 1979 and ran for 241 performances. "Bent" the play, which the film screenplay was based upon, was written by Martin Sherman, and was nominated for the 1980 Tony Award for Best Play. See more »
When Martin Sherman's play first appeared (with Ian McKellen as Max and Tom Bell as Horst) it caused outrage and much discussion with its sympathetic and frank treatment of forbidden love in the age of the SS.
Here it has undergone a few changes but retains its stark power. Clive Owen (probably not my first choice for the role) plays Max, the homosexual who pretends to be a Jew so he is not at the bottom of the pecking order of prisoners. The way the SS force him to prove his sexuality is shocking whether on the printed page, in a theatre, or up on the big screen. Brian Webber plays his intellectual lover Rudy with some class and it is a brief but touching performance.
Lothaire Bluteau, who I had only seen before in 'Jesus of Montreal', was brilliant in the role of Horst, the prisoner with the pink triangle who awakens Max again from his imprisoned desires. There are quiet and intense scenes between the two that are almost unbearably moving to watch, and are done within this film extremely well.
Elsewhere in the cast, Ian McKellen himself plays Uncle Freddie (but those of us who saw him as Max would love to have seen that portrayal immortalised on screen), while Mick Jagger is surprisingly good as Greta (a role which could easily be played wrong but he's spot on).
This play/film is intended to make its audience confront their prejudices, to shock, move, and inspire them. I think it is an unmissable experience - a difficult one, but worthwhile.
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