Feminist and Lesbian Film
FILMS STUDIED: Mädchen in Uniform (Children in Uniform) Germany, 1931, Directed by Leontine Sagan, Show Me Love (Sweden, 1998), Directed by Lukas Moodysson
The cycle of free expression followed by total persecution experienced by members of the homosexual community as a whole, before and post World War 2, was a symbolic and strengthening experience for Lesbian and Feminist film makers alike. It is now a time of freedom in Europe, where filmmakers are establishing future goals to educate and liberate Lesbianism/ Feminism through the art of film. To many of the women and men within these movements, it was a time where ideologies, of what was once filled with discrimination towards homosexuality and the rights of women, are in the past and the future provides growth in new ideologies for a generation of individualistic lifestyles. By researching these filmmakers, from the occupancy of Nazi Germany in 1931 to a more recent date of Sweden, 1998, one is captivated by a history of people who have fought for the freedom they now rightfully own. Thus Feminist and Gay Cinema has begun to take the world by storm.
In the films Mädchen in Uniform (Children in Uniform) Germany, 1931 and Show Me Love (Sweden, 1998), though they are from two diverse countries and cultures, both share the thematically similar narrative of the exploration of homosexuality in women during childhood, and the tribulations of their countries’ prejudiced ideologies conjoined to them. Maedchen in Uniform (Germany, 1931) is considered one of the first films ever to display lesbian love, and with this, the films’ controversial history is not all that bewildering to audiences. The film centers upon the relationship between two women, hence the first ever lesbian film. Manuela (Hertha Thiele) is a young student newly enrolled at a boarding school that is controlled and educated strictly to properly raise the daughters of German officers during World War 2. With family members unable to take care of her, therefore abandoning her, Manuela is left longing for affection and in those times, she would have been looking for affection in all the wrong places. This is how children were raised, men work, woman stay home and both sexes are naturally attracted to each other. Fraulein von Bernburg (Dorthea Wieck) is the school's most adored teacher, who believes in nurturing and being a mother figure in the girl’s lives as opposed to the school's harsh codes of conduct. As the boarding-school is run by military like forces, the environment is disciplined only to enforce certain rules that many of the girls, including Manuela, do not understand because they are confused with their sexual preferences. Mädchen in Uniform is set entirely within an all-woman environment and, indeed, a "feminine" atmosphere. However, the first shots of the film establish the real power of the unseen laws of the government and societies strong opinions on homosexual behaviors. The montage of symbols in the first few frames shows an unseen world of these strong ideologies. As the girls begin to greet Manuela they inform her of how Fraulein von Bernburg kisses them good night and how many girls fancy her in a more sexual way than usual. Manuela is at first confused by what her classmates say, but when she realizes how attractive her teacher is, she begins to have feelings for her even though she knows these feelings are wrong. In order to clearly identify the union of feminist and traditional strategies in Mädchen in Uniform, it may be helpful to concentrate on a single sequence in greater detail. A good example can be found in the first of the two private conversations between Manuela and Fräulein von Bernburg. This sequence occurs directly following the classroom scenes in which Manuela, mesmerized by her teacher in class, is unable to recite the poem when called upon. The scene closes with Fräulein von Bernburg's exasperated comment, "Wieder nichts...
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