Dir. Veit Harlan, 1957. 91 min. German (with English subtitles)
Starring: Paul Dahlke, Hans Nielsen
Homophobic drivel, or gay propaganda? Take your pick!
Veit Harlan had been a prominent director of Nazi propaganda films for the Third Reich — so what on earth is he doing in 1953 making an educational film to (supposedly) instruct parents on how to recognize and eradicate homosexuality in their kids?
Here’s a little known and rather surprising fact: while the Nazi regime was crushed and then collapsed in every front, the Nazi film industry remained almost intact. A brilliant German director like William Dieterle (you may remember him from our Season One), who had gone to the USA to escape the Nazis and had devoted his energy to antifascist activism, discovered upon returning home that he couldn’t find work as a filmmaker because the old guard was still in charge of the film studios. People like Leni Riefenstahl and Veit Harlan managed to elude the War Crimes courts despite their dubious CVs. So, why should we still watch their films?
Many would point to the need to separate art and politics, but images are never neutral, they are always the product of the ideas and beliefs of those who make them. Yet we shouldn’t ignore these films, nor should we burn them, like the Nazis did themselves with many ‘degenerate’ artworks (including a few gay movies) which are now forever lost. We need to face this legacy, and do it with our eyes wide open.
All of these issues may be important, but they wont quite prepare you for this rather ambiguous and often very enjoyable film. Is Veit Harlan for real when he suggests that cubist painting and electronic music (the then new ‘musique concrète’ style) are sure signs of homosexual tendencies? Is he for real when he claims that naked Graeco-Roman wrestling is all the rage at underground gay parties? How come his film-queers are more intelligent, sensitive, and articulate than his heteros? Is his sympathetic portrait of a concerned homophobic father not in fact a pisstake on a ridiculous and hysterical patriarch, who is ruining everybody’s fun, and wrecking his family’s sanity with those outdated prejudices? Well, you will have to watch the film to decide for yourself.
Dublin Film Qlub 2012