Wednesday, March 30, 2011
I'm doing a separate post just for this movie because it deserves it. The movie in question is Bent starring Clive Owen and Lothaire Bluteau, who are both so incredible in this film. Smaller roles are played by Mick Jagger, Ian McKellen, Paul Bettany, Jude Law, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. It's the story of a gay man, Max (Owens) in Nazi Germany. I'd seen this years ago and recently decided to re-watch it. In the course of one day, I watched it twice. It's so powerful. When Max is caught by the Nazis, he is forced to ignore his lover who has been beaten nearly to death and deny even knowing him or suffer the same end, and he must rape a young girl to 'prove' he is straight, thus earning him a yellow star (Jew) to wear. He meets Horst, who wears a pink triangle (Gay man). Max keeps telling Horst, "I'm going to survive" while he battles his own self-loathing over what he is doing to accomplish this. Eventually, the two are given the job of moving rocks from one pile to another and then repeating it in reverse, day in, day out for months on end. They do this task together away from everyone but a guard who watches them. Every two hours they have a three-minute 'break' where they are allowed to stand at attention, not moving. This is where the film really gets me. On a visceral level. As a writer, I know the power of words. This is the film where that power moves me with such strength of force, I am helpless to do anything but absorb and feel. I feel that strength surging through my chest right now just thinking about it. During these breaks these two men fall in love although Max is incapable of admitting he loves anyone including himself - this is the lesson he must learn. The two express that love the only way they can. They can't touch, they can't look at each other, but they can speak. Making love, holding each other, comforting and keeping one another safe and warm - these things they do through nothing but their words. I cry every time I watch it, I'm crying now remembering it. It is this that allows them to remain human in inhuman circumstances, hope when despair could devour you, and survive when everything is trying to crush you. Horst says to Max at one point (and I paraphrase), " A man killed himself last night. They [the Nazis] hate that. It;s an act of free will." This is a movie that is hard to watch. Man can truly be so horrible to one another, it sucks all the air from your lungs, but we also have such a capacity for love, hope and survival that it fills you up. This movie takes you to both places. It is not for everyone, but if you take this journey, I hope you will get as much from it as I did. It is terrible, wonderful, decadent, loving, sweet, sad, and inspiring. Max will eventually learn what love is, that he does love, and that we all always have a choice.