Different from the Others (Anders als die Andern)
Germany / 1919 / 51 min / Silent / Drama
Director: Richard Oswald
Cast: Conrad Veidt, Fritz Schulz, Magnus Hirschfeld
The Skinny: Musical Protege Gives His All for Teacher
Plato Score: B–
Different from the Others was once thought to be lost, but extant copies were found and meticulously reconstructed by the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project. The restored version relies heavily on inter-titles and film stills, but the essence is still there nearly 100 years later.
Paul Korner (Conrad Veidt from Nosfaratu fame) is an accomplished musician who becomes entranced by his fresh-faced pupil, Kurt. The two share a close bond in their afternoons of diligently pulling on their violin bows. Enter the comically evil Franz — who I wouldn’t be surprised if he brandished a cape. Franz knows about Paul’s limp-wristed ways and demands money or else he’ll snitch to the authorities. The situation comes to a head with innocent Kurt abandoning his teacher when the gay hoopla hits the fan, only to return when it’s all too late.
The story is pure propaganda and at times a challenge to enjoy — an entire section features a lecture of famed ‘sexologist’ Magnus Hirschfield (who also co-wrote the film) going on about how, yes Virginia, it’s quite natural to be a homo after all.
Yet it’s important to remember this was a time when no one else was saying anything positive about queerness, and a feature film advocating the repeal of the infamous Paragraph 175 laws was nothing short of amazing.
Different from the Others shows a rich tapestry of gay culture in pre-war Germany — replete with romance, fanciful costume balls and men dancing together. While at times a little dogmatic, it remains an important sociological document from a queer past almost all but vanished.