Different From the Others (1919, dir. Richard Oswald)
Different From the Others, initially released in Germany in 1919, may be the first feature-length film to address homosexuality.The silent film stars Conrad Veidt as Paul Korner, a renowned concert pianist & closeted homosexual who falls in love with his student (Fritz Schultz). Their secret romance is discovered by a blackmailer who threatens to expose Korner as a gay man, which in 1920’s Germany meant public disgrace & possible incarceration. The story ends tragically with Korner being shunned by society & driven to suicide.
Different From the Others had a specific gay rights law reform agenda - director Richard Oswald & co-screenwriter Magnus Hirschfeld, a prominent sexologist/gay rights activist, made the film as a response to Germany’s Paragraph 175, a law which made homosexual acts between men a crime (and which also had the effect of making gays vulnerable to blackmail).
Different From the Others was banned shortly after its release and prints of the film were among the “decadent” artworks burned by the Nazis after they came to power in the 1930s. As a result, only fragments of the film remain available for viewing.