Bent is a film that I knew about, but never saw until recently. After watching an unrelated string of films about Nazi Germany, I have to say that this is the one that stuck with me the longest. I know that the 1979 play is a big deal, but I’ve only read the script. When the film got a NC-17 rating back in the 90s, I could never understand why. It didn’t seem that graphic and it still doesn’t feel that way to me. More than anything, it’s the terror of watching a world fall apart that might be that horrific.
Clive Owen is still an amazing actor and he gets nowhere near the work he deserves. Playing a young gay wealthy man throwing his body and money around, Owen gets to indulge in the hedonistic era of the Weimar Republic. It’s when the Nazis take power that he finds his choices being limited. He loves his boyfriend, but he also knows what that means when faced with certain troubles. After a German officer dies in his company, Owen and his boyfriend have to head for the hills.
What happens after they get captured might stand as some of the most harrowing World War II drama I’ve seen. The gay men are split apart and forced to acknowledge what they are. One partner agrees, one partner disagrees. The offending party is beaten to death by the Nazis in gruesome fashion, while the other is forced to slowly die in Dachau. Time passes and relationships begin to bloom again. But, Dachau doesn’t forgive.
Is there a strong scene of graphic sexuality? Sure, but that shouldn’t be the takeaway. This film is made by Clive Owen’s performance, as you watch what it takes to make a prideful man break. If you’re sensitive, here’s a bit of warning. Bent doesn’t end pretty.