Interesting Stuff In Gay History: Cinema
Gay-themed films are pretty commonplace nowadays. Nearly every major city (metropolis, if you will) has a GLBT film festival, and pictures that would previously have been restricted to exactly these sort of venues have slowly found their way into mainstream cinemas. Some, like Brokeback Mountain and Milk, are Oscar-winning successes.
This certainly wasn’t always the case, though. Tackling such contentious topics was considered hopeless not too long ago, both financially and professionally.
So, given that storytelling of this nature has only recently gained widespread acceptance, how long do you suppose gay cinema has been around? Go on, guess. I’ll wait.
Got a decade in mind?
Well, if you guessed some time after the Stonewall riots in 1969—the birth of the modern gay rights movement—then you’re off.
Same if you guessed any time since World War II.
In fact, the earliest full-length, gay-accepting film with a strong message of equal rights was a picture from the silent era—A German one entitled Anders als die Andem (Different from the Others). It was released in 1919, not even a full year after the first World War.
The film revolves around a violinist who falls in love with a male student and whose relationship is made public by an extortionist. Eventually brought before courts, the violinist’s career is ruined and he is eventually driven to suicide.
The film’s modern understanding of sexual orientation is startling, given that it’s practically a century old, predating the experiences of nearly everyone alive today. Here are some memorable quotes from one character in particular; a doctor:
You must not condemn your son because he is a homosexual, he is not to blame for his orientation. It is not wrong, nor should it be a crime. Indeed, it is not even an illness, merely a variation, and one that is common to all of nature.
Love for one of the same sex is no less pure or noble than for one of the opposite. This orientation can be found in all levels of society, and among respected people. Those that say otherwise come only from ignorance and bigotry.
Due to censorship laws, the director was frustrated to learn his film was forbidden to be seen by anyone outside the medical and psychological community less than a year after its release. Most copies were destroyed thirteen years later, when the Nazis rose to power. All that remains today is just over 50 minutes of fragments, which is available for you to watch below.
And that’s some interesting stuff in gay history.
- Different From the Others [Google Video]