Queen’s Film Theatre, 20 University Square
28th March: 6.00pm (doors 5.30pm)
This is the film that made director Rosa von Praunheim “famous and notorious” (as he likes to call it), and it is often credited with kickstarting the 1970s gay liberation movement in West Germany.
The film premièred at the Berlinale, Berlin’s annual international film festival, in July 1971, barely two years after the (partial) decriminalisation of male homosexuality in (West) Germany. It caused uproar and outrage and not only amongst the heterosexual majority, but equally if not even more so amongst gay men, because the film did not indict majority society for oppressing the LGBT community, but it indicted the gay community itself arguing that its oppression was self-inflicted.
Whilst the filmmaking itself might look and sound dated, many of the issues it raises remain highly topical even 50 years later: the idolisation of youth and beauty; the marginalisation of older gay men; the materialism, hedonism and hypersexualisation of gay culture with its tendency to cause isolation and loneliness; and most of all the tension between craving for respectability and mainstream acceptance on the one hand and the battle for different forms of relationships on the other. Praunheim’s film puts sexuality centre-stage and argues: we don’t want to be respectable, we don’t want to be bourgeois, we are sexual beings, our sexuality is an essential part of our identity, and we are no longer willing to deny it or hide it. At the core of the film is the as yet unresolved issue as to how the LGBTIQ community reacts to the pressure of mirroring and submitting itself to the values and norms of mainstream heterosexual society.
Praunheim himself later said about his most famous film: “I wanted to provoke with this film. I wanted to challenge gay men instead of pity them – I wanted to challenge them to get politically organised and fight for their rights. The film made many gays angry but I was glad about that, because the anger which many homosexuals felt after watching the film suddenly gave them the courage to stand up and stick up for themselves.”
Introduced by Professor Rainer Schulze, University of Essex, followed by Q&A with Declan Meehan, Deputy Director, Cara Friend.