“Anders als die Adern,” more commonly known in America as “Different From the Others,” is a 1919 silent film, believed to be the world’s very first gay movie.
Written by Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld—a self-proclaimed “sexologist”—and Richard Oswald (who also directs), only a fragmented version of “Different from the Others” survives. Others were destroyed the following year due to German censorship.
Conrad Veidt stars as Paul Körner in a role described as the original penning of a gay character. The film follows the life of Körner, a respected concert pianist who mentors a handsome young man named Kurt, played by Fritz Schulz.
An unspoken love blooms between the two men, but before even hands are held a blackmailer arrives at Körner’s home demanding hush money. During the setting of the film, Nazi Germany’s notorious Paragraph 175—which notes that a male who commits a sex offense with another male or allows himself to be used by another male for a sex offense shall be punished with imprisonment—serves as potential threat to the love affair and its participants.
Anita Berber and screenplay writer Hirschfeld also star in the film.
Prior to the film’s production during World War I, the director and Dr. Hirschfeld collaborated on a series of “enlightenment” films that dealt with adult topics like abortion and venereal diseases.
During a time when Germany had no censorship guidelines for silent films to abide by, the pair decided to take advantage of that absence of regulation by making “Different From the Others”—the beginning of a gluttonous era in which “enlightenment” films not only became heavily embraced and respected, but were being made in excess. Needless to say, with excess at its prime, backlash shortly followed.
Film censorship was instated in Germany in 1920; being “the heart” of the “enlightenment” movement, the film was quickly banned, despite its noble intentions. Shortly after the enacting of censorship laws, the Nazis came into power, which meant the destruction of all copies of “Different,” hence why only fragments remain.
Regardless, Kino—distributor of the latest version, which is available on DVD—makes the case that “Different” was the very first film to ever address homosexuality head-on and in a compassionate way. Kino was also responsible for constructing fragments of the film together, along with discovered stills, and other scraps in order to achieve an approximate version of the original. Even in its incomplete form, it has been deemed “remarkable” by press, with Contact Music noting its “sophisticated handling of the theme.”
It can be said that the film, regardless of whether it truly was the first-ever gay film in history, was ahead of its time in its portrayal of gay culture, especially during a period where being gay was seen as a mental disorder.
With that said, feel free to ponder this very forward-thinking quote from a piece of the movie’s dialogue because, clearly, these men were on to something:
“Love for one’s own sex can be just as pure and noble as that for the opposite sex.”