A Gay Themed Film that Dared
I watched “Victim” again last night and I see why it deserves to be classified as a true gay classic. It is already almost 50 years old yet it still is interesting and well done and when we consider when it was made, it dared to touch a controversial topic. “Victim” dared to throw the spotlight on a law that should have been off the books and it was regarded as highly controversial. Filmed in black and white, it is someone dated yet beautifully lit, wonderfully directed and contains several exemplary performances. The law that it tackled was the one that made homosexuality a criminal offence in Great Britain. If caught engaged in homosexual acts, a person was subject to imprisonment and social and economic despair.
Melville Farr is a happily married English barrister and into his life comes Jack Barrett, a young working class man who decides that it is time to make his homosexuality known. In doing so, he would implicate Farr who wanted to end their relationship but what he did not know was that, even though their relationship was short, it was long enough that the two men’s time together has been photographed. Farr was about to learn just how much his dalliance cost him and not just in cash. Farr was given a choice—to yield to blackmail or to uphold the existing law and to feel its strength and severity. This came at a time when Farr had been selected to sit on the queen’s council. The film is a reflection of the famous Peter Wildeblood trial and the Wolfenden Report that was letting the British government know that it was not dealing with the times as it should. The film makes a very serious political statement and by exposing the injustice of the British law, they went where few others had ever dared. Some even feel that the film had something to do with the law being eventually changed.
Dirk Bogarde gave the performance of his career and Sylvia Syms as his wife compliments him beautifully. She is a woman who is torn between her love for her husband and what she sees are the implications of what can happen if his homosexuality becomes public knowledge. Bogarde is so perfect in the role as he shows emotions that we do not usually see on screen. The plot is quite routine for the time when the film was made. Farr jeopardizes his reputation by cooperating with the police in finding and then booking an extortionist who has been blackmailing male homosexuals. It then becomes an exposition of the situation of the homosexual in modern society and it this, the film is unprecedented and is actually quite bold. Homosexuality is presented honestly with no sensationalism and it shows the pathos of the situation and the dilemma that men find themselves in. For that alone, this is a very important film and if you have not seen it, try to find a copy.