I’ve recently been looking into the work of Conrad Veidt and when searching the internet for information about Der Januskopf, I happened upon an online version of Anders als die Andern (Different from the Others).
It’s a silent film made in 1919 and at approximately 50 minutes long, it is sadly incomplete. It’s a notable film in cinematic history because it’s thought to be the first to have shown homosexuality in a positive light. Conrad Veidt’s character, Paul Körner is also believed to be the first leading gay character written for cinema. The film was subsequently banned in 1920 as censorship laws were enforced, naturally some years later the Nazis also tried to destroy it, thankfully they didn’t completely succeed.
The film was written by Richard Oswald and Magnus Hirschfeld, a physician and sexologist who advocated the rights of sexual minorities. Hirschfeld headed the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (Institute for the Science of Sexuality) in Berlin, which was one of the first places to fall victim to the Nazi Book Burnings in 1933, they destroyed many of the institutes books and records. Hirschfeld makes an appearance in the film as a Sexologist who reassures the characters, and in turn the audience, that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality and that it is a normal ‘third sex’. It actually works on everyone he talks to and they seem to become tolerant and understanding of our main character’s orientation. One of the characters this works on is Else who was played by the infamous Anita Berber. Sadly none of the footage with Berber appears to have survived.
It’s an interesting film, it portrays the affection between Körner and Kurt Sivers realistically as their romance blossoms. Conrad Veidt is also brilliant at showing us the anguish and injustice suffered by a man who wants nothing more than a healthy, loving relationship. If anything it suffers from labouring the point that a homosexual relationship is as normal as a heterosexual one, but for such a fine performance from Veidt it’s certainly worth enduring.
To watch the restored version of the film please click here.