Friday, May 15, 2009

Victim (an old film, a real life)

If you have ever wondered how fastidious I am on following through on recommendations people have made to me, rest assured it is uncannily abnormal. I just watched a film, Victim, that my Victorian lit professor recommended to our class almost two years ago. Released in 1961, this film was willing to talk about homosexuality at a time where it often went unspoken. (Can you imagine that a married man might actually be gay? Duh! If these people had it figured out in 1961, why can’t we seem to remember that today?)

I’ve watched several documentaries about gays in early cinema and Hollywood, but I can’t consciously recall if Victim was ever one referenced in the documentaries. Of course, the documentaries mention about how there may have been an occasional gay man as a waiter or dancer in a film, but it wasn’t until the later part of the century that movies began to feature gays and lesbians as actually subject members – and its wasn’t until a decade or so after this that gay films weren’t about fear, disease, or self-hatred.

This movie opens up with one of the “victims” being chased throughout London. He attempts to reach out to his former lovers and his current one, only to no avail. The film starts with his suicide. He was stealing money to help protect his current lover in order to pay off blackmailers. The other “victim” is a barrister played by Dirk Bogarde who does an awesome job in this film. The scene when his wife confronts him about his homosexuality and he admits his love for his murdered lover is AMAZING! This film really needs to be shown to contemporary society.

It is just so interesting to see a historical portrait of what it may have been like to be gay in the 1950s or 1960s. I can just barely imagine what it must have been like to hide who you truly were because if anyone found out you could go to jail. It's horrifying. And in light of today's national debate on marriage, I think this film might be an interesting way to discuss topics like equality, homosexuality, and bigotry.

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