Sunday, June 7, 2020
This is my entry in the Broadway Bound Blogathon
Bent starts out by giving us some insight into the life of Max (Clive Owen), a gay man living in Berlin at the time of the rise of Hitler and the Nazis to power in that country. Max is a fairly promiscous man, even though he has a current lover, Rudy (Brian Webber II). One night he brings home a man who is the the SA with the Nazi government, much to the dismay of Rudy.
Unfortunately for Max and Rudy this happens to have happened on the infamous "Night of the Long Knives", an event in which Hitler and members of his inner party sent out gangs of the SS, Hitler's inner military men to murder those deemed to be a threat to the consolidation of his power with the German government, and Max's man of the moment is one of those deemed to be on the list to be eliminated. And the SS men have been following him. The break into max and Rudy's apartment and murder him, sending Max and Rudy on the run.
The problem is that, among other undesirables within Nazi Germany at the time, gay men are on the list. The two are in danger of being captured and sent to detention camps. Max tries to deal with his uncle Freddie (Ian McKellan), who is also gay, but not quite as overt about his activities and still in a position within the government to help. Uncle Freddie manages to procure papers to allow Max to leave the country, but Max insists that Freddie also get papers for Rudy.
With nowhere else to go, Max and Rudy hide out in a makeshift shed in the woods. Unfortunately Rudy has been talking to the wrong people and Max and Rudy are captured. In an effort to save himself from persecution as a gay man, Max convinces the authorities instead that he is a Jew, thinking he won't be treated quite as badly. (In retrospect, we as the audience know that eventually that decision could prove to be bad, but apparently, at least this early in the history of the Nazi regime, he might get better treatment).
While on the train, sadistic Nazi officers accost Rudy, because he is gay, and think that Max may be hiding his true nature. When confronted however, Max denies that he even knows Rudy, and reluctantly helps beat him, after which Rudy dies and is thrown of the moving train. Horst (Lothaire Bluteau) chides him for his cowardice, convinced that Max is gay despite hgis insistence that he is a Jew.
Later, in Dachau, Max is giving a demeaning assignment of moving rocks from one side of the compound to the other. He uses bribes to get Horst assigned to help him, having actually fallen in love with him. Although initially their relationship is a bit hostile (Horst doesn't actually want to do this stupid job, which is pointless; they move rocks from one side to the other, then repeat the process in reverse, a ploy designed to drive the prisoners mad).
A relationship and a love does develop between the two however, albeit not in a fashion that can be consummated. At least not in the physical sense. But they manage to have sex by conversation alone and the two end up finding true love and admiration for each other.
It's not going to end well, as you may well know. But in the process Max does come to terms with his sexuality and the ending, although a bit depressing, does satisfy.
For more information on the treatment of gay men in Nazi Germany might I suggest a documentary Paragraph 175? This movie sheds some new light on that very good documentary. The movie was based on a Broadway play, and I think I would have liked to see it. One of the things I miss by not being in New York is there is a wide variety of plays that end up making profound movies making me wish I had some access to them in their original form.
Drive home safely, folks