New Trio Of Films Which Are "Different From The Others".
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 12/12/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHERS (1919) was one of a series of films produced in Germany immediately after World War I that dealt with various aspects of sexuality. It was the only one to deal specifically with homosexuality and is groundbreaking in that sense. The film was heavily censored shortly after its release and today survives in a severely truncated form and has had to be reconstructed with several stills and title cards. As a result of this the film seems less like a film than a lecture on its topic, tolerance for homosexuality. In fact the edited version was known as GESETZE DER LIEBE (The Laws Of Love) and ran for around 40 minutes. That title refers to Paragraph 175, a German law enacted in 1871 that sentenced all homosexuals to jail terms of up to 5 years. It remained on the books until 1994.
The reconstructed version runs around 50 minutes and stars Conrad Veidt (CABINET OF DR CALIGARI, CASABLANCA) as Paul Korner, a concert violinist (labeled incorrectly as a pianist on the DVD cover) who falls in love with one of his students and is blackmailed by a former associate. Once he is exposed he is shunned by society and by his own family. The film also features Dr Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935), a real life sexologist who argued that homosexuals constituted a third sex who were this way naturally rather than by choice, an argument that still rages today. The movie was originally made for general release and had other characters and storylines. As mentioned earlier all that survives are the polemic aspects which makes DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHERS heavy going at times.
This is one of 3 new films from Kino International in a series called GAY-THEMED FILMS OF THE GERMAN SILENT ERA. The other two films are MICHAEL (1924) by the well known Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer which features a young Walter Slezak and is the best of the three. It's like a silent version of DEATH IN VENICE. Then there is the luridly titled but deeply moving SEX IN CHAINS (1928) by the mainstream German and later Hollywood director William Dieterle (HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA). The story concerns a husband who is sent to prison for trying to protect his wife and what happens to both of them as a result of that. Dieterle also plays the husband. Both of these films are complete and are in very good shape considering their history. All three come with piano accompaniment and MICHAEL has optional audio commentary. These are certainly not movies that will have mass appeal (even among silent film enthusiasts) but they are important films and show that the silent cinema could and did tackle tough social issues. The restorations were done in 1999 but are just now being made available on home video."
Very good reconstruction of a banned, nearly-lost film
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 12/29/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I was very impressed by this 1919 silent film challenging the German law of the time that condemned homosexuals to 5 years imprisonment. Apart from the fine casting of Conrad Veidt in the lead and good picture quality, this film goes out of its way to show how unfair and harsh "paragraph 175" of the law was, leading to many cases of blackmail of homosexuals and suicide by homosexual victims of such blackmail and social outcasting. It pleads with the audience to crush and delete paragraph 175 from the lawcode, and the tragic story of Paul Koerner (Veidt)makes quite an emotional impact. All this, despite the fact that a large portion of the film is missing, but with good summaries in the intertitles of the missing action in between footage of film of various lengths, it doesn't feel like so much is missing. There is enough film to tell the main parts of the story, including the documentary-type lecture of a Sexologist who enlightens his audience, that the overall feeling is merely of a condensed version. And this condensed version really gets its message across impressively, ending with the theme that through knowledge or better understanding of homosexuality, fairer justice for all can be achieved. A great statement film for its time, and it's great to have it restored even in this condensed (50 minutes) version."
Allen Bardin | Columbia, SC United States | 12/17/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"... huge chunks of this film did not survive, including many of the actors' performances. The "restoration" is basically a few stills and lots of explanatory title cards. Should have been tacked on to one of the other releases in this series."
Today as Ever
perine parker | san francisco | 04/24/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In addition to being a beautiful black and white film, that pulls you into the story with haunting intensity, this film holds a historical lesson that is both precious and timeless. It is the amazing documentation of true progressive intelligence in a time of absolute adversity, when homosexuality was a crime punishable by the law known as paragraph 175. An artisitc and beautiful response to intolerance and bigotry, the film contains lessons from 1919 that are still uterlly applicable today. It is unswerving in it's view, amazingly progressive, and revolutionary in thought--before the talkies were even invented!!!!! This film is generally referred to as the first gay film known, and has only recently been restored enough and distributed on dvd. As impressive today as ever, the acceptance of sexual diversity as natural and necessary are expressed point blank: Excellent to say in this era, astounding to shout in 1919. Just under one hour long. Don't miss it."