Gay-themed films in Berlin reflect societal divide

Wed Feb 12, 2014 3:04am EST
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - Gay characters and themes have become so common in film that it came as a shock when director Adam Csaszi said he changed his movie based on a true story about a gay footballer and his lover in rural Hungary because the reality was too brutal.

Speaking at the Berlin film festival, Csaszi said what actually happened in the incident on which his film "Viharsarok" ("Land of Storms") is based is that two gay men were killed by a third man who chopped up their bodies.

"If I told the real story...then the motive of the murder would be jealousy and not this homophobia in society," Csaszi told an audience at the film's Berlin premiere on Saturday.

He said he wanted to show that the local man growing up in a deeply religious rural environment, finding that he is attracted to men, "has no set of tools on how to deal with this homophobia and this is actually the motive of the murder".

Since Ang Lee's classic 2004 gay cowboy movie "Brokeback Mountain", or perhaps the even earlier French film "La Cage Aux Folles", gay-themed movies and characters have become increasingly mainstream.

But the offerings at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival, known officially as the Berlinale, illustrate a sharp divide between how the subject is treated in societies where homosexuality is no longer taboo, and places where the sight of a man kissing a man or a woman necking with another woman generates hostility, or sometimes violence.

In American director Ira Sachs' "Love Is Strange", screened in Berlin, two men who have been in a relationship for four decades take advantage of liberalized laws to get married - and promptly lose their New York apartment.

John Lithgow, who stars as one of the married men, told a festival news conference that the movie isn't so much about gay people and same-sex marriage as it is a study of a "cranky old marriage, like my own".   Continued...

Director Adam Csaszi (2nd R) and his cast Adam Varga (L), Andras Suetoe (2nd L), Sebastian Urendowsky attend a news conference to promote the movie Viharsarok (Land of Storms) at the 64th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 8, 2014. REUTERS/Thomas Peter