“BENT”— We Shall Never Forget”

 “Bent”

We Shall Never Forget

Amos Lassen

Film Movement is rereleasing a remastered and Blu Ray copy of “Bent” as part of their classics series. “Bent” is one of the most difficult films I have ever watched. It is also one of the most important films we have today about the treatment of gay men during the Holocaust. The darkest period in the history of mankind is what the movie “Bent” is about. It is not an easy movie to watch but it should be required viewing for all mankind so that we may see what man’s inhumanity to man can engender. It is also important that we never forget the atrocities that we see in the movie that are brought about simply because people are different. It was Adolph Hitler and the Nazi regime that sought to rid the world of those who did not fulfill the Aryan characteristics and this meant Jews, Catholics, gays and gypsies. I think that we forget or perhaps just didn’t know that gays were punished and exterminated during that time. The movie “Bent” and the play upon what it was based attempted to make sure we would never forget. I, personally, can never forget because I fall into two of the categories that called for extermination, being both gay and Jewish. I lost part of my family to the Nazis, a family I would never know and I am determined that the world will never be allowed to forget.

“Bent” is one of the most powerful films that I have ever seen and yet, for some reason, I felt it could have been even more powerful. I remember seeing the play in New York with Richard Gere and I was silent for a week afterwards. The movie made me very angry, very very angry. As I have matured I have grown aware of prejudice more and more That is exactly why this movie is so important, it reminds us of just how awful life can be and how humans, with misguidance, can become sick animals just as the Nazis were in both reality and in this film. 
From the first frame of the film, it draws the viewer in and the matter at hand, the Nazi persecution of homosexuals was presented with dignity and grace and respect. What is lacking in character development was made up for by the long silent periods in the film that continuously drive the viewer to realize what is happening. Intensely psychological, the movie drives its point right into the lap of the viewer.

It is easy to rationalize the period by saying that in times of desperation and fear, people do terrible, incomprehensible things. Everything is taken away, self-esteem is stripped, comforts of life disappear and people are places in situations that they are completely unprepared for, We. Who live in a free country, cannot comprehend something like this happening, we cannot understand what is like to face death because we are different. But we do need to be aware that if this happened once in history, there is no guarantee that it will not happen again.

I ask you to try to imagine what is like to watch a drag queen who sings every night to a lonely bunch of men and has the power to protect herself by bribing the Nazis. How can that be? The drag queen saves her life by paying for it with the lives of others. And after one has been turned in and is on a train to a place unknown and which takes him from everything has ever known after being tracked down like an animal where is the justice in that? Then he watches as they drag his lover away. This is the reality of “Bent”.

For so long it was only the travails of the Jews that we heard about regarding the Holocaust. Other groups were treated as badly and this is what “Bent” shows us. “Bent” is a perspective on the holocaust from the unknown number of homosexuals who suffered alongside  the Jews. It is a simple story — a love story between men in terrible circumstances and the bond of love presented in the movie is convincing and moving. Somehow this love maintained with no physical contact and hardly any eye contact. The love scene is not like any you have ever seen. The two men bring each other to climax by words alone, no touch and no looking at each other.

This movie is not a masterpiece, far from it but it is a movie that needed to be made if for no other reason than to remind us of the time. It is a very sad but romantic story. The story and the characters are what made this movie so powerful. The producers were a brave group to even attempt to bring this to the screen. It is an untouched piece of history that has been elegantly brought to us.

It is hard to even write about “Bent” without tearing up. The absurdity of killing people for no real reason except that they are different is something that is hard to understand perhaps because it cannot be understood. The punishment that was supposed to be for a crime against nature was forced labor and ultimately death. Bent depicts a world devoid of physical and eye contact, devoid of humanity, and devoid of understanding. Profound and incredible, “Bent” is a movie that must be seen to be believed and it must be viewed with an open heart and mind so that one can actually feel what the actors feel, not only because they were gay men in love and pain but because, above all else, they were human.

 Here is what Film Movement has to say about this release:

RELEASED FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER ON BLU RAY IN NORTH AMERICA 

FEATURING ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEES CLIVE OWEN (CLOSER), IAN MCKELLEN (LORD OF THE RINGS), JUDE LAW (COLD MOUNTAIN), AND ACADEMY AWARD WINNER RACHEL WEISZ (THE CONSTANT GARDENER), AS WELL AS PAUL BETTANY (THE AVENGERS), NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU (GAME OF THRONES), AND MICK JAGGER. 

MUSIC BY LEGENDARY OSCAR-NOMINATED COMPOSER AND GOLDEN GLOBE WINNER, PHILIP GLASS

Bonus features included Cast and Crew Interviews, Mick Jagger music video Streets of Berlin, Behind the Scenes footage, and new essay written by Steven Alan Carr.

Review

WINNER – Prix de la Jeunesse – Cannes Film Festival 
NOMINATED – Outstanding Film – GLAAD Media Awards 
WINNER – Best Feature – Torino Int’l. Gay & Lesbian Film Festival 
WINNER – Best Actor – Gijon Int’l. Film Festival —

Martin Sherman’s play about the persecution of gays in Nazi Germany makes its transition to the big screen with triumphant results. The acting is superb and the ingenious score by Phillip Glass adds a haunting, surreal texture to director, Sean Mathias opulent, Greenaway-esque production. – Stephen Holden, The New York Times 

Martin Sherman’s harrowing concentration camp drama about the Nazi persecution of homosexuals still has some power to unsettle…Bent has earned its place in cultural history. –Film Threat

The film is a punch in the gut and a kiss on the lips… – Mark Savlov, Austin Chronicle 

Director Sean Mathias has made a very stylized yet substantive movie about the plight of homosexuals in the Holocaust. –Spirituality & Practice

Leave a Reply