Bent, Bent MovieReview, Movie Review, Rilm Review

Michael A. Maynez photo


When Cannes Film Festival awarded the 1997 Prix De La Jeunesse to the film "Bent", they really were on target for a great piece of history. Martin Sherman's play, has been brought to the screen brilliantly by British stage director Sean Mathias. As his debut with a screenplay by the play's author he leaves an indelible mark of what we can hardly wait to see more of his work in the future. It is taut, undaunting and even though Sherman has opened his play more than usual, it enhances rather than detracts.

The persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany has been recorded before in such films as Visconti's "The Dammed" where the Krup family who bankrolled Hitler into power had their own skeletons in their closets - from transsexuals and pedophiles to just plain queers. However they did not cover the intimate details of such close relationships which literally dissect them. We are first exposed to Nazi thugs on the Night of the Long Knives who are determined to eradicate any gay men who were involved with a Nazi commander Ernst Rohm. Unwittingly, Clive Owen plays Max, who has picked up one of these tricks and brought to his apartment that he shares with this lover Rudy, played by Brian Webber with snobbish intelligence. When the stormtroopers invade their apartment and kill Max's one night stand, Rudy and Max find themselves fleeing and being hunted by the killers. Their need for help in a very dangerous situation escalates when neither Greta, a transvestite played by Mick Jagger, who is a singer of sorts ala Marlene Dietrich. His delivery of the song "The Streets of Berlin" is about as high camp as you can get. He cannot help them. He gives them money. What they really need is passports to Amsterdam only. Max's Uncle Freddie is a master at obtaining false documents. He can only get one passport and they need two. Ian McKellen, plays Uncle Freddie, impeccably. It isn't long before they are discovered in a forest and shipped fast on a box -car to Dachau. It's on the box-car that Max is force to deny his boy-friend Rudy and brutally attack him, letting the Nazis finish him off. He meets Horst, played with incredibly restrain by Lothaire Bluteau, remember him from "Black Robe" and "Jesus of Montreal", they develop a relationship and eventually become lovers in their doomed destiny in Dachau.

The film is rated NC-17 because of the love making scene between the lovers, although they never touch or look at each other is graphically described. They grow short of breath and their eyes full of ecstasy give way to their release. I directed a west-coast production of the play so I felt privy to really enjoying the material. When you stop to think that at one time Costa-Gavras and Rainer Werner Fassbinder were considered to direct the film, it is refreshing that Sean Mathias brought a fresh understanding to man's inhumanity to man. The film is a powerful tale of a tragedy of love. It will touch the Holocaust of your heart, soul and mind. The decadence of Nazi Germany will forever linger there as a dark cloud of our civilization.

MGM Goldwyn
Produced by: Michael Solinger, Dixie Linder
Directed by: Sean Mathias
With: Lothaire Bluteau, Clive Owen, Brian Webber, Ian McKellen, Mick Jagger
Co-produced by: Sean Mathias, Martin Sherman
Executive producers: Sarah Radclyfee, Hisami Kuroiwa
Costume designer: Stewart Meachem
Composer: Philip Glass
Eiditor: Isabel Lorente
Production designer: Stephen Brimson Lewis
Director of photography: Yorgos Arvanitis
Screenplay by: Martin Sherman
Rated: NC-17
Limited release 26 November 1997

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Original Date Saturday 29 November 1997
Updated Sunday 30 November 1997