“Different from the others”

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Conrad Veidt and Fritz Schulz, in a clip from “Different from the others” | Cinegraph | 14375

The German silent film Anders als die Andern (Different from the others) was issued on 30 June 1919. From 1915 German films had been tackling more and more social issues with considerable clarity and daring. “Anders” was the first film to portray homosexuality in a candid way. Financed by Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute for Sexual Science, the film was made as an attempt to change the law in Germany. Germany’s Paragraph 175 made homosexuality a criminal offence. Elements of the plot, especially the blackmailing of some of the characters portrayed, was re-used in 1961 for the basis of the British film “Victim”.

In 1919, at the Berlin première of “Different from the Others,” Magnus Hirschfield said: “Soon the day will come when science will win a victory over error, justice a victory over injustice, and human love a victory over human hatred and ignorance.”

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Another clip from the film | 17036

Almost as soon as it was released the film caused considerable debate and controversy. The Chronograph website article goes into further detail.

Reinhold Schünzel and Conrad Veidt, in a clip from “Different from the others” | Cinegraph | 14376

As a result of the debate, censorship laws were enacted. Films like Anders als die Andern were restricted to doctors and medical staff. Prints of the film were among the many “decadent” works burned by the Nazis after they came to power in 1933.

By 1933, when the Nazis stormed Hirschfield’s Institute of Sexual Research, also in Berlin, every known copy of the film had been destroyed. Luckily, the good doctor had included some forty minutes of the footage in a long scientific film called “Laws of Love,” which was shown in Russia in the late twenties or early thirties and remained for decades in the Krasnogorsk archives.

This may seem excessive to some readers but your activist remembers that in the 1960s many books in his local library’s Dewey card index were marked with the letter “R” for “restricted”.

No complete copies of the film were thought to have survived but a copy was eventually released on video, although no-one is sure whether the film really is complete. The role played by Conrad Veidt was probably the first homosexual character ever written for cinema.

The U.C.L.A. Film & Television Archive recently bought a high-definition print of “Laws of Love”, and a reliable version of “Different from the Others” has now been completed, using detailed Nazi censorship records as a narrative guide, and with images substituted for the missing scenes. “Years before Alfred Kinsey, Hirschfeld was arguing that homosexuality exists on a continuum. It’s not abnormal, because there is no abnormality,” commented Jan-Christopher Horak, the director of the U.C.L.A. archive.

When Anita Loos, who wrote the novel “Gentleman Prefer Blondes,” visited Berlin in the 1920s, she observed that “any Berlin lady of the evening might turn out to be a man; the prettiest girl on the street was Conrad Veidt” – the silent-screen leading man who played none other than Paul Körner in “Different from the Others.”

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/the-tragic-lessons-of-cinemas-first-gay-love-story

This post was updated with new information and additional image on 15 February 2017.


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