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Bent - Dual Format Edition [Blu-ray] 
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Set amidst the decadence and terror of pre-war Fascist Germany, the multi award-winning Bent is above all a powerful and moving love story. Recounting the fate of three homosexual men during the rise of Nazism, the film is a harrowing but inspirational tale of struggle against oppression. This Dual Format Edition (Blu-ray and DVD) features the film restored in HD and the following extras: Theatrical Trailer, Interviews with Sean Mathias, Martin Sherman, Clive Owen, Lothaire Bluteau, Ian McKellen and Mick Jagger, On Set Footage and the Music Video for Streets of Berlin, performed by Mick Jagger.
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A highly recommended film on what it was like to be gay under the Nazi Regime.
After Max's headlong flight to his gay but closeted Uncle, played by Ian McKellen in a small but pivotal role, ends in failure to get papers for his lover as well as himself, the two hide out in the Black Forest of Germany, then end up captured on a train ride to hell, during which the boy is beaten to death and thrown off the train, and Max's psyche disintegrates into chaos as he tries to deny the reality of his new life and its morally repugnant choices--when it comes down to his life or his lover's, he chooses his own, following the Nazi guard's unspeakable order (the guard is played with cool, scary detachment by the impeccable Rupert Graves), and then follows this by another act (that must be left to the viewer to hear about to believe). By this time, his self-loathing has reached a level that is so unbearable, he makes yet another choice to try to survive that will somehow, in his own mind, make acceptable what he's just done.
He chooses to debark the train in disguise as a Jew, rather than as the doubly ostracized, pink triangle-d homosexual. Max's deceit is quickly understood to be desperate but bone-deep, not merely a ploy. Max cannot be honest with himself about any aspect of his own character--despite the fact that he's constantly calling himself "a terrible person," his arrogant narcissism is obvious, as is his constant belief in his ability to "make deals" which will guarantee his survival. Only as his relationship with Horst develops does he begin to show signs of character. Earlier in the film, he has taken his young dancer partner under his wing and though resentful, has not abandoned him, a glimpse of what Max can become, but he hasn't behaved with much honor so far. This renouncement of his identity as a "fluffer" (his uncle's word) is his final selfish act. After this, Horst's influence begins to take hold and love enters his life, probably for the first time. As the two of them move rocks from one pile to another, only to move the same pile back to its original spot over and over again, their separation from the rest of the inmates of Dachau allows them to develop the sort of intimacy that Max has never even tried to seek in the midst of his previously hedonistic Berlin life. (I like, too, that their story stays isolated and doesn't get lost in expensive set-dressing that tries to re-create all of Dachau. The location appears to be an industrial site, and this separation keeps the focus appropriately narrow.)
I like Mick Jagger as the cross-dressing chanteuse of the group's nighttime rubble "Nightclub" and love that serious actors like Jude Law and Rachel Weisz show up for momentary bits that you'll miss if you blink, and that Ian McKellen took this small role as Max's uncle. Later, the always-great Paul Bettany shows up as another casually sadistic Nazi guard and brings about the film's denoument. This comradarie reminded me of "And the Band Played On..." where everyone pitched in to get the project made and to give it weight through their presence. It's an important story, and one which reminds us that the chant really shouldn't be "6 million dead," but rather and with all respect, "10 million dead," which is the estimated count when one adds the additional 4 million gay men and women, Catholics, political dissidents, Poles, Germans who wouldn't go along with the Reich or who were merely "intellectuals", French Resistance fighters (those who weren't shot), actual criminals (though who knows what that word meant during the Reich?) and miscellaneous "undesirables" who were not Jewish, but who suffered and died, too. And it's a good history lesson to see how homosexuals claimed the infamous upside-down pink triangle, turned it point up, and began to wear it with pride rather than shame--a wonderful example of the reclamation of self. In point of fact, Hitler's swastika was an ancient, universal "walking star" or "walking circle", a symbol that existed in Neolithic Europe as well as amongst Native Americans, as a symbol of transformation and growth. We Indians here have tried to reclaim it, as it was a powerful healing symbol, but it's hard to wear a bracelet with that sign on it, no matter what its history. But this is the reason Hitler chose it--it had a legacy of powerful change, and he stole it, as he stole other symbols of mystical power.
The love-making scene between Max and Horst is beautifully acted, especially by Bluteau, and its subtlety was a masterstroke of writing--it is more emotionally deep than any "sex" scene could have been. It is a profound statement of the power of love and the assertion that love-making occurs in the mind as much as in the body. It feels, too, that this may have been the first time Max actually made love, rather than had sex, and it is moving and beautiful. By now Max has begun to change, and his capacity for unselfish love blossoms, ironically in the worst place on Earth--quite a wonderful bit of writing.
The one problem with the film is the score. Phillip Glass' shallow, repetitive, irritatingly New Age-y music is, if you can imagine, more annoying than the idea of moving rocks back and forth. Only the final solo is beautiful and up to the standard of the rest of the film. His music is like Michael Nyman's--it either works beautifully or is a disaster, and I found it disastrous in this case. The musical cues are also abrupt and distracting, and in such a moody film, the last thing one wants is to be jarred out of a reverie.
The heart-breaking but defining, self-affirming ending is often called a "downer" but I found it to be the opposite. To finally take his identity and his destiny into his own hands was Max's only way to truly "survive" both his loss and the camp--as Horst says earlier, such an act drives the Nazis crazy because it is self-willed, and their deepest goal was to destroy the will, not merely the life, of each camp inmate. Max's act is an escape beyond capture, and ultimately, his truest human act.
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