Different from the Others

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Different From the Others
Anders als die andern 1919 poster.jpg
German poster for Anders als die Andern
Directed by Richard Oswald
Produced by Richard Oswald
Written by Richard Oswald
Magnus Hirschfeld
Starring Conrad Veidt
Fritz Schulz
Reinhold Schünzel
Anita Berber
Magnus Hirschfeld
Karl Giese
Cinematography Max Fassbender
Distributed by Richard Oswald-Film Berlin
Release dates
  • 30 June 1919 (1919-06-30)
Running time
50 minutes
(fragment)
Country Weimar Republic
Language Silent film
German intertitles

Different From The Others (German: Anders als die Andern) is a German film produced during the Weimar Republic. It was first released in 1919 and stars Conrad Veidt and Reinhold Schünzel.

The story for Anders als die Andern was co-written by Richard Oswald and Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld,[1] who also had a small part in the film and partially funded the production through his Institute for Sexual Science, with the aim of presenting the story as a polemic against the then-current laws under Germany's Paragraph 175, which made homosexuality a criminal offense.

The cinematography was by Max Fassbender, who two years previously had worked on Das Bildnis des Dorian Gray, one of the earliest cinematic treatments of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. Director Richard Oswald later became a director of more mainstream films, as did his son Gerd. Veidt became a major film star the year after Anders was released, in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Anders als die Andern is one of the first sympathetic portrayals of homosexuals in the cinema.[1] The film's basic plot was used again in the 1961 UK film, Victim,[1] starring Dirk Bogarde. Censorship laws enacted in reaction to films like Anders als die Andern eventually restricted viewing of this movie to doctors and medical researchers, and prints of the film were among the many "decadent" works burned by the Nazis after they came to power in 1933.

Plot summary[edit]

Veidt portrays a successful violinist, Paul Körner, who falls in love with one of his male students. A sleazy extortionist threatens to expose Körner as a homosexual. Flashbacks show us how Körner became aware of his orientation and tried first to change it, then to understand it. Körner and the extortionist end up in court, where the judge is sympathetic to the violinist, but when the scandal becomes public, Körner's career is ruined and he is driven to suicide.

The film opens with Paul Körner (Conrad Veidt) reading the daily newspaper obituaries, which are filled with vaguely worded and seemingly inexplicable suicides. Körner, however, knows that Paragraph 175 is hidden behind them all — that it hangs over German homosexuals "like the Sword of Damocles."

After this thesis statement, the main plot begins. Kurt Sivers (Fritz Schulz) is a fan and admirer of Körner, a violin virtuoso, and he approaches Körner in hopes of becoming a student of his. Körner agrees and they begin lessons together, during which they fall for one another.

Both men experience the disapproval of their parents. Neither are out, but Sivers's parents object to the increasingly large amount of attention he focuses on the violin and his unusual infatuation with Körner, and the Körners do not understand why he has shown no interest in finding a wife and starting a family. Körner sends his parents to see his mentor, the Doctor (Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld).

The Doctor appears several times in the film, each time to deliver speeches more intended for the audience than the advancement of the plot. In this, his first appearance, he tells Körner's parents:

You must not condemn your son because he is a homosexual, he is not to blame for his orientation. It is not wrong, nor should it be a crime. Indeed, it is not even an illness, merely a variation, and one that is common to all of nature.

After Körner's coming out, he and Sivers begin seeing each other more openly. While walking together, hand in hand, through the park, they pass a man who recognizes Körner. Later that day, when Körner is alone, this man, Franz Bollek (Reinhold Schünzel) confronts him and demands hush money or else he will expose Sivers.

Körner pays him and keeps it a secret from Sivers that he does so. Eventually, however, the blackmailer's demands become too great and Körner refuses to pay (Bollek reads Körner's reply to his demand in a gay bar). Bollek decides instead to break into Körner's house while he and Sivers are performing, but he is discovered by Sivers and Körner on their return and a fight breaks out. In the course of the fight, Bollek reveals to Sivers that he has been blackmailing him.

Sivers runs away and faces hardships trying to survive alone. Körner is left dejected and, over a photo of Sivers, remembers his past.

His first memory is of boarding school, when he and his boyfriend Max are discovered kissing by their teacher and he is expelled. Next, he remembers University and his solitary and lonely life there, and the growing impossibility of trying to play straight.

Thin, intense young man and mustachioed older one, looking at each other
Körner first meets with the doctor.

He remembers trying an ex-gay hypnotherapist, but finding him only to be a charlatan. Then he first met the Doctor, whose reaction was much different from those he had previously met. Among other things, he told him:

Love for one of the same sex is no less pure or noble than for one of the opposite. This orientation can be found in all levels of society, and among respected people. Those that say otherwise come only from ignorance and bigotry.

Remembering further, he recalled first meeting Bollek at a gay dance hall, and Bollek leading him on before ultimately turning on him and using his homosexuality to blackmail him.

Back in the present, Körner takes Else Sivers (Anita Berber), Kurt Sivers' sister, to the Doctor's lecture on alternative sexuality. The Doctor speaks on topics such as homosexuality, lesbianism, gender identity, intersexuality, the perils of stereotypes, and the idea that sexuality is physically determined, rather than a mental condition.

Körner reports Bollek for blackmail and has him arrested. In retaliation, Bollek exposes Körner. The Doctor gives testimony on Körner's behalf, but both are found guilty of their respective crimes. Bollek is sentenced to three years for extortion. The judge is sympathetic to Körner, and gives him the minimum sentence allowable: one week.

Allowed to go home before his starting his term, Körner finds himself shunned by friends and strangers alike, and no longer employable. Even his family tells him there is only one honorable way out. He then takes a handful of pills, committing suicide.

Sivers rushes to his side as he lies dead. Körner's parents blame Sivers for what has happened, but Else harshly rebukes them. Meanwhile, Sivers attempts to kill himself as well, but the Doctor prevents him and delivers his final speech:

You have to keep living; live to change the prejudices by which this man has been made one of the countless victims. ... [Y]ou must restore the honor of this man and bring justice to him, and all those who came before him, and all those to come after him. Justice through knowledge!

The movie closes with an open German law book, turned to Paragraph 175, as a hand holding a brush crosses it out.

Other information[edit]

The film, which co-starred and was co-written by sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld, refers to Hirschfeld's theories of cross-dressing. The now-discredited theory states that homosexuals were heterosexuals "handicapped by an excess of female hormones." The film's blackmailer attends a drag club, and various scenes in the film document transvestism, a word invented by Hirschfeld. The film, which suffered from censorship, was shipped, as 40 different copies, throughout Germany by Oswald. The authorities found the films and quickly controlled it, allowing it to be shown only to doctors and lawyers. The Nazis destroyed the majority of the prints and only one copy of the film is known to exist.[1]

Cast[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d John Baxter (10 February 2009). Carnal Knowledge: Baxter's Concise Encyclopedia of Modern Sex. HarperCollins. pp. 11–12. ISBN 978-0-06-087434-6. Retrieved 24 December 2011. 

External links[edit]

Portions of this article originally appeared on the now defunct Outcyclopedia website.