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Christopher And His Kind [DVD]
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Based on the writer Christopher Isherwood’s critically acclaimed memoir, Christopher And His Kind, this landmark BBC adaptation gives a fascinating glimpse into the decadent and politically unstable world of 1930s Berlin. A young wide-eyed Christopher escapes repressive English society and arrives in Berlin at a time when the cabaret scene is in full swing. Launched into the thriving gay subculture, Christopher embarks on a seminal journey of self-discovery.
Written by acclaimed playwright Kevin Elyot, this dramatic love story is set against the vibrant backdrop of Berlin’s cabaret nightlife and the dark rise of Nazi politics.
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On the debit side, the film's evocation of early 1930s Berlin is not particularly convincing. I understand that many scenes were shot in Ireland, perhaps a tight budget precluded shooting in eastern European locations. And when Isherwood visits his old Berlin haunts twenty years later no one seems to have aged much (just sticking a moustache on Heinz to transform him from 17 to 37 won't do.) Matt Smith does a passable job as the young Isherwood and the supporting cast is top notch. I particularly liked Lindsay Duncan as Isherwood's snobby mum, clearly aware that she is a stultifying influence on her sons but blithely ploughing on regardless (in the book she's depicted rather more sympathetically); and Toby Jones is wonderfully seedy as the rather shifty Gerald Hamilton, although in the book Hamilton comes across as a far more complex character, a wheeler-dealer with a fascinating history who manages to diddle Isherwood out of the then enormous sum of £1000.
Despite the film's dodgy adherence to the events related in Isherwood's book I felt it was quite successful in preserving the spirit of his Berlin years and I enjoyed it as a piece of entertainment. I only regret that the filmmakers weren't more ambitious with this project and that the producton values weren't a tad higher.