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(1997) (Clive Owen, Lothaire Bluteau) (NC-17)

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Drama: Several gay men try to survive their stay in a Nazi WWII concentration camp.
Max (CLIVE OWEN) is a carefree playboy who lives the high life of the promiscuous Berlin nightclubs of Nazi Germany. Although he lives with his lover, Rudy (BRIAN WEBBER), a dancer in the cabaret, he has a fling with a German soldier at a swinging nightclub where the androgynous Greta (MICK JAGGER) performs. Soon, however, the Nazis crack down on homosexual activity, and Max and Rudy go on the run. Max hopes his Uncle Freddie (SIR IAN MCKELLEN) can make a deal that will get them to Amsterdam, but they're captured before that happens.

The two are then transported along with other gay men to Dachau. Along the way, however, the soldiers torture Rudy, and Horst (LOTHAIRE BLUTEAU), a fellow prisoner, tells Max he must forget Rudy, act straight, and toughen his emotions to survive. Once at Dachau, the gay men are given pink triangles -- symbols of their "lower class," while Max, who convinced the officers he's straight, wears just a Star of David. "Sentenced" to hard labor, Max must overcome the tedious and harsh work conditions where he's forced to move rocks back and forth from one pile to the next and then back again.

Desperate for companionship, he bribes an officer to have Horst transferred to his work detail. Initially upset that he's moving rocks for no reason, Horst eventually bonds with Max and the two fall for each other, although they can't touch or display their true emotions. As their bond grows stronger as the months pass -- and is the only thing that allows them to survive -- they run the risk of harsh and even deadly repercussions if the Nazis' learn of their secret.

Unless they're drawn by the lure of the NC-17 rating, it's not very likely.
For a strong scene of graphic sexuality.
  • CLIVE OWEN plays a promiscuous gay man whom the Nazis imprison.
  • BRIAN WEBBER plays Max's effeminate gay lover.
  • MICK JAGGER (of the Rolling Stones) briefly plays a drag queen performer.
  • LOTHAIRE BLUTEAU plays another gay prisoner who falls for Max while at Dachau.


    OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
    Based on Martin Sherman's stage play about gay men in Nazi Germany, this is going to be a tough sell for distributor MGM. Not only will the subject matter make many viewers uncomfortable, but the NC-17 rating will all but diminish any box office prospects. I suppose the film makers figured the subject matter would only appeal to a select group of people anyway, but a few cuts here and there and the film easily could have earned an R rating without diminishing its strong impact.

    Debuting to critical acclaim in 1979 London where supporting actor Sir Ian McKellen played the lead role, the play later made it to the U.S. where it earned Tony nominations and also featured a young Richard Gere. Adapted into screenplay form by Sherman himself, the film does have a very theatrical feel to it. While there are many telltale signs that it was originally a play, first-time director (and acclaimed theatrical director) Sean Mathias adds enough detail in the scenery to keep the movie from feeling simply like a filmed staged production.

    Although the film initially appears set to push even the NC-17 boundaries with the promiscuous sex scenes in Berlin's gay bars, it eventually settles down into a rather straightforward drama. Whether mainstream audiences can get past the initial material is uncertain, but if they do, they'll find themselves in a film that's much more about the human spirit than sexuality.

    Featuring a haunting score by composer Philip Glass (who also did the music for the amazing film, "Koyaanisqatsi"), the film is depressing to watch, but how can a feature dealing with Nazi concentration camps not be? While it's not as jarringly upsetting as "Schindler's List," the film is still quite disturbing. Symbolized by Max's "job" of moving heavy stones from one pile to another and then back again, the Nazi's treatment of prisoners -- no matter their nationality, religion, or sexual orientation -- is still strong stuff no matter in what form or how often it's presented.

    The performances come mainly from accomplished theatrical actors, and consequently are quite good. The standout obviously is Owen (previously seen in a supporting role in "The Rich Man's Wife"), and his capacity to transform himself from a promiscuous, but debonair playboy to a hardened P.O.W. is quite impressive. Lothaire Bluteau and Brian Webber are also good in their roles with Webber making his debut.

    The scene stealer, however, is none other than Rolling Stones singer, Mick Jagger. Dressed up like a drag queen and lowered from the sky during a production number, his brief performance is reminiscent of Tim Curry's in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." While not quite as outrageous, his appearance and subsequent singing did elicit quite a few surprised laughs from the audience. When the Nazi's crack down on the gay life, however, he goes "straight" and disappears from the story as it moves off in another direction.

    Some may believe that the film is too dialogue heavy, and while it is somewhat guilty of that, it's not as bad as some stage to screen adaptions have been. The film also carelessly gets sloppy at the end. A man is shot and killed from machine gun fire, yet there's no blood and even more surprising, no bullet holes in his jacket that's removed and worn by someone else.

    To top it off, and just like in a stage play, this dead man is quite clearly seen breathing. On the stage that's forgivable, but never in a movie. While those matters aren't horrible -- and some might even miss them -- they diffuse the impact the director is trying to create. After all, no matter how devastating the scene wants to be, you can't feel too bad when the murdered man is still breathing. Unless, of course, it's a horror film.

    It is, but uses horrors of a different sort. While the subject matter certainly won't appeal to everyone's tastes and the NC-17 inducing material may be too much for others, the film is quite compelling and never boring to watch (although the rock moving scenes do grow tedious, but that's an intentional effect). With decent performances and a somewhat unpredictable plot and ending, this film should stick with audiences who do make the effort to see it. We give "Bent" a 6.5 out of 10.

    Obviously this film isn't for everyone, and with an NC-17 rating, only the oldest of teenagers will be able to see it (if the theaters are strict in their admittance policy). For those who are bothered by such things, the film focuses on gay men and there are several rather graphic sexual scenes between them (as well as some heterosexual activity and nudity). Since the film also deals with WWII Nazis, there are extreme amounts of bad attitudes and violence, as well as many tense scenes. It is doubtful many kids, if any, will want to see this film. Still, if you or your older teens do, you may want to read through the scene listings first.

  • People drink and smoke at some parties.
  • Max drinks a shot of liquor and then has some wine at a party. Later he playfully pours wine on a Nazi soldier.
  • Max and another person snort cocaine at a party. Later, Max asks Rudy if he remembers the drug and then says, "I would like some cocaine."
  • Nazi officials slit a man's throat and copious amounts of blood pour from his neck as well as his mouth.
  • A man cuts somewhat bloody meat from a large dead animal to feed people on the streets at night.
  • A man's face is very bloody after being severely beaten by guards.
  • We see a young girl with a bullet hole in her head.
  • Max's nose is bloody after he's been hit in the face.
  • Some viewers, depending on their beliefs and values, may see the homosexual characters having both, especially the people involved in promiscuous sex.
  • Max cheats on his lover Rudy with a Nazi soldier.
  • German guards and officers threaten prisoners on a train and make Rudy step on his own glasses. They then take him away and we hear his screams as they beat him. Max wants to help, but Horst tells him not to if he wants to stay alive. The guards then make Max beat Rudy to prove that they're not lovers. Later they make Max have sex with a young girl to prove that he's not gay and they shoot that girl in the head (heard, but not seen, although we later see her afterwards).
  • Trying to drive him crazy, the Nazi's make Max move heavy stones from one pile and then back again for many hours a day. He only gets a three minute break every couple of hours during which he must stand still. He, and later Horst, must do this during the heat of summer and the numbing cold of winter.
  • Nazi officials bang on Max and Rudy's door while another Nazi soldier is there with him. They eventually burst their way in and grab the soldier, slitting his throat. Meanwhile, Max and Rudy escape and run through the streets.
  • Max and Rudy run through a forest where the Nazis eventually capture them.
  • German guards and officers threaten prisoners on a train and make Rudy step on his own glasses. They then take him away and we hear his screams as they beat him. Max wants to help, but Horst tells him not to if he wants to stay alive. The guards then make Max beat Rudy to prove that they're not lovers.
  • A Nazi officer makes Horst move closer to an electric fence while a guard aims his machine gun at him. This scene goes on for quite a while and becomes more tense as it continues.
  • Rifles: Carried by the Nazi's and used to beat their prisoners.
  • Knife: Used to slit a man's throat.
  • Machine gun: Used to shoot a prisoner.
  • Phrases: "Queers" and "Fluffs" (for gays), and "Bastard."
  • None.
  • There's just a minor bit of tense music in several scenes.
  • None.
  • At least 6 "f" words (1 used sexually), 2 "s" words, 5 slang terms for male genitals (the "c" word), 2 possible asses, 1 damn, and 2 uses each of "Christ" and "Oh my God," and 1 use each of "God," "Oh God," and "Jesus" as exclamations.
  • Max kisses another man and then gropes his chest.
  • We see Max's bare butt as he stands at a toilet.
  • We see Max and a Nazi soldier in bed and see part of the soldier's bare butt.
  • Max comments about a "threesome" involving him, Rudy and the Nazi soldier.
  • We see a scene where many people, both straight and gay, are having sex. We see women's bare breasts as well as graphic movement involving both straight and gay sexual encounters.
  • We see the bare butts of some male performance artists.
  • We see a Nazi soldier's pleasured facial gestures, some limited movement, and hear sounds as Max evidently pleasures him.
  • We see full male nudity from a distance as a Nazi soldier sits nude on a bed, and again later as he's chased and captured by other guards.
  • Though not seen, the Nazi's make Max have sex with a young girl to prove that he's not gay.
  • We see men's bare butts as they're showered down in the concentration camp.
  • Standing at attention during a break and not able to touch each other, Max and Horst have verbal sex where they talk about what they're doing to each other (oral sex, anal sex) and say (among other things), "Do you feel my c*ck?" "Do you feel me inside you?" "I have you inside me." "Do you feel me thrust?" Max then tells Horst, "You're a good f*ck" and they comment that they both climaxed.
  • Max tells Horst that he "went down" on a guard (oral sex) in exchange for medicine for him.
  • People drink and smoke at several parties.
  • Max and Rudy smoke several times.
  • Greta smokes.
  • Some Nazis smoke in a few scenes.
  • None.
  • The Nazi persecution of not only gays, but many other groups during WWII.
  • Nazi officials slit a man's throat and copious amounts of blood come from his neck as well as his mouth.
  • Greta sets his dressing room (filled with his drag costumes) on fire.
  • We hear Rudy's screams as the Nazi's beat him in another train compartment. They then bring him back into the main prisoners' area and an officer hits Rudy with a billy club. He then makes Max beat him with the same. Finally, they throw his body from the train.
  • An officer kicks Max and then hits him twice with his rifle (once in the face) when he won't get up off the ground.
  • A guard shoots and kills a man with a machine gun.
  • A man grabs an electric fence and kills himself.

  • Reviewed November 24, 1997

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