Gay Film Review: Christopher and his Kind
What comes to mind when you think of Berlin in the 30s? Scantily clad women performing cabaret? Swastikas lining the streets? Hunky men meeting in underground bars and getting sexy together?
Probably not that last one, right?
Based on the memoir of British novelist, Christopher Isherwood, the film opens in Los Angeles in 1975 as Isherwood starts writing about his late 20s when he left his family home to meet his friend and occasional lover, W. H. Auden in Berlin.
In the German capital, Auden immediately introduces us to the underground gay scene, seen through Isherwood’s eyes as an exciting, slightly intimidating though not especially seedy place to exist after dark where beautiful men abound.
That such places existed is as much a surprise to the viewer as it initially is to Isherwood, though the film doesn’t linger gratuitously before moving forward with the story.
Through his living situation, Isherwood encounters some fascinating characters, both Germans and other expats alike.
There’s Jean Ross, a wannabe actress and writer who quickly becomes Isherwood’s best friend, Gerald Hamilton, an older masochist with a toupee who takes Isherwood under his wing in his induction to gay Berlin life, and Fräulein Thurau, the amicable and nonjudgmental landlady, who doesn’t baulk at the string of beautiful men Isherwood brings back to his bed.
While it may not be gratuitous, there are definitely some fun, poignant and very intimate sex scenes in the film, though if you were hoping to, you unfortunately won’t get to see Matt Smith fully naked.
What’s more, the portrayal of characters, from the main to minor rings true, making them believable and relatable, and Isherwood’s personal story that takes place along side the historical events of the film is fascinating and touching.
When he first arrived in Berlin, Isherwood was quite adamant that he would not get involved in politics, but when he starts to see the changes happening around him as the Nazi party gain more and more control, he steps up to take his place in the fight alongside his friends.
While Christopher and His Kind is a film set in 1930s Berlin, it’s also a story for our time. The fight for social justice, the illegalisation of love and defiance and opposition in the face of government brutality; all these are themes touched on in the film and that are still all too relevant in our world today and make the film not only an interesting window into the past, but also an accurate mirror to the present.