Bent

  • 1997
  • Movie
  • NC-17
  • Drama

Time has been less than kind to Bent, Martin Sherman's 1979 landmark play about gay men sent to work and die in a Nazi concentration camp. Director Sean Mathais's stylish film version, based on Sherman's own adaptation, manages to enhance whatever power the original still holds, but too many crucial elements now seem badly dated. Max (Clive Owen) is a young...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Time has been less than kind to Bent, Martin Sherman's 1979 landmark play about gay men sent to work and die in a Nazi concentration camp. Director Sean Mathais's stylish film version, based on Sherman's own adaptation, manages to enhance

whatever power the original still holds, but too many crucial elements now seem badly dated. Max (Clive Owen) is a young gay man swept up in the divine sexual decadence of 1930s Berlin. When the Gestapo begins to target homosexuals as part of their campaign of terror, Max unsuccessfully tries to

secure emigration papers for himself and his lover Rudy (Brian Webber). They make a run for it but are soon caught and put on a train to Dachau, where Max ultimately learns that in order to become truly free, one must first come to terms with oneself. Nowadays it's difficult to consider a moment

of sexual freedom followed by a time of holocaust without immediately thinking of AIDS. And it's tragically ironic that what once worked as a tidy historical example of one thing would, 18 years later, become a much more fitting metaphor for something else entirely. Sherman's play -- and

consequently Mathais's film -- simply can't bear the weight recent history has heaped upon its narrow shoulders. Neatly divided into two parts, the first half still stands as a valuable dramatization of an aspect of the Holocaust that's still in sore need of illumination. As such, it's stunningly

designed, expertly acted (particularly by Owen and, in a brief cameo, Mick Jagger) and emotionally shattering. The second half, with its austere, Brechtian staging and highly symbolic dialogue, fares less well. It's telling that the play's centerpiece -- an erotically charged dialogue between two

prisoners who are forbidden to touch -- is now more likely to arouse titters than anything else. At a time when sexual contact has become increasingly dicey, the scene plays more like a thumping round of phone sex than any previously intended metaphor.

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  • Released: 1997
  • Rating: NC-17
  • Review: Time has been less than kind to Bent, Martin Sherman's 1979 landmark play about gay men sent to work and die in a Nazi concentration camp. Director Sean Mathais's stylish film version, based on Sherman's own adaptation, manages to enhance whatever power t… (more)

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