- Grenzverwischer: "Jud Süss" und "Das Dritte Geschlecht": Verschränkte Diskurse von Ausgrenzung
The antisemitic propaganda film Jud Süss (Jew Süss, 1940) is director Veit Harlan's claim to infamy. But after being found not guilty of wrongdoing due to lack of evidence against him, the self-proclaimed apolitical artist was allowed to continue making films in the postwar period, including the highly problematic Das Dritte Geschlecht (The Third Sex, 1957). The film's storyline revolves around a young man, Klaus Teichmann, who befriends an older gay man, and the attempts of Klaus's parents to keep their son straight. Protests against the screening of this film came from all sides: some protested less on the basis of the film's content and more due to Harlan's involvement in Goebbels's propaganda machine; others criticized the film's apparently homophobic tendencies, while still others reproached its allegedly positive portrayal of homosexuality. The film was eventually banned in Switzerland and appeared in revised form in West Germany, where it was known as Anders als Du und Ich (Different from You and I), as a result of the censors' interventions. In her monograph, Francesca Falk presents all sides of these controversies, while shedding light on common ground between the various discourses surrounding Das Dritte Geschlecht and Harlan's earlier film Jud Süss.
The primary image that Falk uses to connect these two films is that of the Grenzverwischer, one who blurs the boundaries of what a given society accepts as "normal," and whose relative ambiguity is then feared and hated. Toward the outset of her study, she clarifies the terms homophobia and antisemitism, and is careful not to set the concepts up in direct analogy to each other; rather, she demonstrates how the discourses surrounding each tend to overlap and even seem conflated at times. She highlights the contradictions in the portrayal of homosexuality in Das Dritte Geschlecht, as a trait that is somehow both inborn and contagious, and the comparable paradoxes of homophobic, misogynist, anti-Communist, and antisemitic discourses (p. 56). She illustrates how Jews and homosexuals in these "anti" discourses are presented as internationally connected (in an ostensibly threatening way), disloyal to their nations of origin, and contrary to conventional notions of masculinity and femininity. Falk rightly stresses how the gay character Boris Winkler in Das Dritte Geschlecht is particularly interested in abstract art, whereas naturalistic art is equated in the film with the heterosexual realm, a dichotomy reminiscent of the Nazi labeling of modern art as "Entartete Kunst" ("Degenerate Art").
Falk alternates between concretely describing and analyzing the two films, outlining their reception and the controversies surrounding them, and deliberating [End Page 173] on the socio-historical circumstances that put the debates into a larger context. To this end she also considers relevant theoretical methods, touching for example on the queer theory of Judith Butler and others, Freud's theory of bisexuality, and Foucault's deliberations on the "unequal gaze" in Discipline and Punish. In addition, she provides extensive background on social perceptions of homosexuality during the eras in which these two films were produced, but also those from before and after. Periodically, and especially in her concluding chapter, Falk addresses the broader implications of her study, e.g. the interrelation between cinematic images and identity formation.
The film analysis and interpretation in this book, while infrequent, is strong and leaves the reader wanting more. Although Falk is hesitant to compare the films too directly, she points out some significant overlapping themes and even similar dialogue (e.g., p. 65). She also elucidates both obvious and subtle symbolism, or what she calls "filmic signs," such as the gay character's sunglasses and his tendency to lurk in dark places; the cinematic use of fences and other barriers; the gaze as instrument of power and control; and the Netz motif (in the double sense of a network and a net or web). Falk provides eighteen stills from Das Dritte Geschlecht to which she refers occasionally in her analysis...