5

Queer War Films

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While last month’s “5 Queer RomCom’s For Valentine’s Day” was focused on the lovey-dovey romances, things get a bit darker this month. War is never a happy subject, often more tragic than not. These “5 Queer War Films” stunningly capture queer stories during wartime.

 

An interesting thing to note – all of these queer war films other than “Bent” are foreign! Part of this is natural, given that Europe was the battleground for WWII for four of these films. The conflict between Israel & Lebanon sets the background for “Yossi & Jagger”. As such, the native language of each location is used, which means subtitles for those of us who can’t follow along! But there’s another element to note when all of these war films are brought together – there’s a different film style, common with non-US produced films. With a stronger emphasis on the story and characters, these foreign films are almost more enjoyable as a result.

 

So grab a box of tissues and settle in to enjoy these “5 Queer War Films”. They might be difficult to watch due to the subject matter, but they are excellent films regardless.

 

[Note: Not all of these films have full reviews yet – but they’re added to the quickly growing list of films I plan to tackle soon!]

1

Yossi & Jagger

Yossi (Ohad Knoller) is a Commander at an Israeli outpost near Lebanon. He is however involved in a secret, passionate love affair with his second in command (nicknamed Jagger (Yehuda Levi)). The two will often sneak off from the outpost to spend time together. A failed ambush during a full moon leaves Jagger mortally wounded and forces Yossi to finally express his love.

 

Yossi & Jagger” has long been a favourite queer film of mine. It’s an excellent glimpse into Israeli cinema, a country which I hadn’t considered for its cinema. While this does require the subtitles to fully understand, there’s actually quite a bit where the actual dialogue isn’t necessary; the subtle glances alone speak volumes. But what I find the most enjoyable about this queer film is the raw and natural storytelling, carried out by a cast who mesh together beautifully. Yet the story is hauntingly beautiful – despite being tragic. For as much as I enjoy this queer war film, it’s difficult to watch because everything works together to create a truly evocative story. I highly recommend watching “Yossi & Jagger”, you’ll truly enjoy this queer war film!

2

A Love To Hide

A young Jewish girl (Louise Monot) looking to escape the clutches of the Third Reich after seeing her parents and sister brutally slain while attempting to make their way to England is sheltered by an old friend whose status as a member of the “third” sex soon leads the Gestapo pounding on his door as well. Betrayed by a smuggler who sat idly by as her family was casually slaughtered by the SS, terrified Sara flees into the comforting care of childhood summer-vacation chum Jean (Jérémie Renier) and his faithful lover Philippe (Bruno Todeschini). Though safe for the moment thanks to Jean’s quick-thinking plan to pass her off as a Gallic employee of his family’s laundry business, Sara watches in horror as her homosexual protector is forced into a Nazi labor camp as a tragic result of a bad decision made by Jean’s troublesome brother Jacques (Nicolas Gob).

 

This is a beautifully tragic queer war film, showing the harsh realities of France during the German occupation as it affects to both Jews and Homosexuals. There are some great examples of that terrifying time, and even how they found the ability to enjoy themselves; the scene in Groff’s is rather enjoyable – until the truth that homosexuals are now being targeted sinks in. There’s almost a bittersweet element to “A Love To Hide.” Trying to get in favour with his father, Jacques gets his brother arrested and released the next day. Except his name was already down for being gay and it all goes out of control to tragic. While there is no happy ending to this film, there are small tidbits that are appreciative such as Jean’s mother and eventually, his father, finally accepting Jean when he miraculously returns home from the camps. I encourage you to give “A Love To Hide” a watch, but have some tissues ready.

3

For A Lost Soldier

The story of a romantic relationship between a grown-up and a child. Set in the Netherlands near the end of WWII, the film is a flashback recalling an adolescent relationship between Jeroen ( Maarten Smit & Jeroen Krabbé) and a Canadian soldier (Andrew Kelley). A difficult subject handled with style and feeling.

 

I have to admit that “For A Lost Soldier” is a different film. Not just a queer war film but a coming-of-age drama, there’s also a bit of romance – along with a rather taboo topic. Slow paced like many European films, we’re taken on a journey through young Jeroen’s childhood during the war when he was sent away from Amsterdam to live with foster families for survival. We spend nearly half the film setting up this difficult and challenging time, so that when the Allies arrive to liberate the Netherlands, it’s actually quite joyous and freeing. And amidst this new freedom is a eye-opening and thought-evoking budding relationship between one of the Canadian soldier’s and a very young Jeroen. Despite a fleeting moment in his life, this film perfectly captures a defining moment in Jeroen’s life. It’s rather beautiful to watch!

4

Aimée & Jaguar

In 1943, while the Allies are bombing Berlin and the Gestapo is purging the capital of Jews, a dangerous love affair blossoms between two women. One of them, Lilly Wust (Juliane Köhler), married and the mother of four sons, enjoys the privileges of her stature as an exemplar of Nazi motherhood. For her, this affair will be the most decisive experience of her life. For the other woman, Felice Schragenheim (Maria Schrader), a Jewess and member of the underground, their love fuels her with the hope that she will survive.

 

Overall, I wasn’t a huge fan of “Aimée & Jaguar” – but I can’t quite pinpoint why. Told via flashbacks, the plot is a bit difficult to follow. Complicating things is the fact that it’s set during a very dangerous time in Berlin. Everyone is on edge, but for a Jew or for a homosexual – it’s deadly. The emotions within scenes change at the drop of a hat, often explosively. Juxtapositions, such as Lily’s explorations and newfound romance with a female lover set the building tension and plot onto a pedestal whose fall is inevitable – just like the fall of Berlin. This haunting queer war film not easy to watch, but we cannot disregard the importance of retelling the real-life romance between Lilly Wust and Felice Schragenheim. For that reason alone, this is a crucial queer film to watch.

5

Bent

In 1930s Berlin, homosexual Max (Clive Owen) sleeps with German officer Wolf (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), only to see him killed by his fellow Nazis the next morning. Fleeing with his boyfriend, Rudy (Brian Webber), Max is eventually caught and forced to beat his partner to death on a train to prove they have no connection. He’s then sent to Dachau concentration camp and meets Horst (Lothaire Bluteau), a proud gay man also bound for the camp. Despite their harsh surroundings, the two fall in love.

 

This is a powerful queer war film, based on a successful play. It shows us that even amidst some of the worst darkness, connection and even love can grow. Just note, that this is a difficult film to watch, after all it takes place during Nazi Germany and at the Dachau concentration camp – it’s not a light, fluffy romance. However, with a star-studded cast of excellent actors, this masterpiece is worth watching! It’s also one of Queer cinema’s classic films to watch. Do NOT miss!

 

 

 

 

"5 Queer War Films" on teal background, with film strip corners

Portrait of Michael J. Deibert, owner of Queer Film Reviews

Hi, I’m Michael!

I have amassed a massive collection of queer and gay-themed films, shorts, series, and more. I’m here to let you know which ones are worth watching – and which ones aren’t!

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