a powerful depiction of the resilience of the human spirit
As poignant, as it is heart-wrenching, this noted work finally comes to DVD after seemingly an all too long wait.
Most however will already be knowledgeable of the story. For beginning in flashback, we witness debonair hedonist Max enjoying to the full the pleasures of pre-war Berlin, one where just about anything went - and did. Until that is the infamous Night of the Long Knives, one that finds him running for his life, alongside his lover Rudy. Begging for help from reluctant relatives such as uncle Freddie, they are instead forced to seek shelter in the woods, only for the Dobermans to deliver them into the hands of the SS and a detention camp life that Rudy would never see.
Only too well aware that he stands a better chance of survival as a Jew, rather than a homosexual, Max all too eagerly casts aside the pink triangle, in favour of the yellow star. Yet even under the most extreme regime of cruelty, love can find a way. Such is that which Max finds in fellow prisoner Horst. Forbidden to touch, speak or even look at each other, their deeply emotional, against physical relationship provides them with the will to live. But how long can it last when face to face with oppression?
Adapted for the screen by Martin Sherman from his award-winning play of the same name, this emotive work details an abhorrent chapter of human history, namely the persecution of thousands of homosexuals during World War II. Yet in adapting his play for the screen, something has been lost in its cinematic translation. Only just what that is somehow isnít clear. What is apparent is that by moving the detention camp act far earlier on in its film adaptation, the celluloid version is in effect, largely set within a prison regime. Thus what little light relief there is falls into the opening reel, given the majority of the piece, like that of Schindler's List, reminds us of the horrors of man's inhumanity to his own kind.
That said and as you would expect, Lothaire Bluteau as Horst and Clive Owen as Max give everything that the script requires, and more, in a feature that at times shows one too many signs of its theatrical origin. This inspite of the fine support work of Ian McKellen as gay uncle Freddie / Max in the original London production of 1979, Brian Webber as Rudy and in an inspired choice of casting, Mick Jagger as the vibrant transvestite chanteuse Greta aka George. That both film and stage play speak volumes on the resilience of the human spirit, even in the bleakest of circumstances, goes without saying. Yet in graphically detailing how homosexuals, considered the lowest of the low by the Nazis, ranking below Jews, were treated during the Holocaust, the bitter irony remains that those who survived the brutality of life under the Third Reich would discover upon their release, that they had been imprisoned for an act of love that was still deemed a criminal offence in most countries of liberated Europe.
Dual Format Edition / DVD & Blu-ray available 13.09.2010 as part of the Park Circus catalogue
starring: Lothaire Bluteau, Clive Owen, Brian Webber, Ian McKellen,
Mick Jagger, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Jude Law, Rupert Graves.