Christopher and his Kind (2011)

 

 

 

Director:     Geoffrey Sax. 

Starring:     Matt Smith (Christopher Isherwood), Imogen Poots (Jean Ross), Lindsay Duncan (Kathleen Isherwood), Perry Millward (Richard Isherwood), Toby Jones (Gerald Hamilton), Pip Carter (W. H. Auden), Alexander Doetsch (Caspar), Faolan Morgan (Pieps), Issy Van Randwyck (Frl. Thurau), Clare Louise Connolly (Frl. Schmidt), Maggie Hayes (Frl. Mayr), Iddo Goldberg (Wilfrid Landauer), Will Kemp (Bobby Gilbert), Douglas Booth (Heinz Neddermayer), Gertrude Thoma (Fr. Neddermayer).

real story of "Cabaet"

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

 

Los Angeles, 1976.  On a desk sits a small old German clock.  Christopher Isherwood says it's been forty years since he wrote about his Berlin experiences.  He destroyed his Berlin diaries, but still remembers a good deal of it.  And now he is writing to set the record straight.  The primary reason he went to Berlin in 1931 was for the boys. 

Berlin, 1931.  A woman named Jean Ross sings a song in a Berlin cabaret.  Englishman Christopher Isherwood is on a train in Germany headed for Berlin. 

Britain.  Mrs. Kathleen Isherwood tells her son that Germany is the last place he should be going to.  He says his dear friend Wystan told him that Berlin is wonderful.  Mother replies that what he needs to do is go to medical school.  Christopher says he's just not meant to be a doctor  -- he's not cut out for it.  He is a publisher and a novelist, not a pre-med student.  The younger son, Richard Isherwood, sits on the stairs and listens to the argument. 

Berlin.  The cabaret singer still sings and Christopher rides the rails.

Britain.  Mother tells Christopher not to forget that the Germans killed his father.  Christopher heads up the stairs.  His brother asks him to please take him with him to Berlin.  Christopher says his brother must stay to look after mother. 

Germany.  Christopher watches the landscape as the train chugs along.  When the train car is nearly emptied, a man approaches Christopher and asks for a light for his cigarette.  He asks Christopher if he is going all the way to Berlin?  Yes.  Does he have accommodations in Berlin?  Yes.  The man explains that he is being a bit impertinent but his landlady desperately needs a lodger to help pay her expenses and he thinks Christopher would be the fellow to just fit the bill.  He now gives Christopher his card with his name on it:  Gerald Hamilton. 

Christopher gets off the train when it stops at the Berlin station and there he meets his friend, Wystan.  The friend takes Christopher to a hidden-away cabaret called the Cozy Corner.  The place is full of homosexual men.  The place is also dense with smoke.  Christopher sees two men kissing in a booth. 

The two friends are smoking while laying in bed together.  Christopher says that he is going to go check out the lodging at the place Gerald told him about.  Wystan tells Christopher:  "I have missed you."  He lays his head on Christopher's right shoulder.

The landlady tells Christopher she adores Englishmen because they are so polite.  Right across from his room is where an English woman. Jean Ross, lives.  She's not crazy about that one, because, she says, the woman treats her like a slave. 

Christopher goes to see Gerald in room number 8.  At first Gerald doesn't remember, but with a few hints, Gerald remembers and invites Christopher into his room. Gerald explains that he was in prison in Brixton for expressing "anti-British" sentiments.  He adds that he has lots of Irish blood in him.  Christopher notices a photo of a naked man (complete with exposed penis) on Gerald's desk.  Gerald explains he was just passing through Hamburg when he met this handsome stevedore.  He then adds that Berlin is indeed the place for a young man to let his hair down.  But, one has to be careful.  Homosexuality is illegal and if the Nazis come to power, they will stomp out the homosexual community.  As they talk a naked young man raises up off the bed (brief nudity), puts on his clothes and leaves the room. 

Christopher goes back to the Cozy Corner by himself.  There he sees a handsome gentleman he saw before.  They go off to a private area and start kissing and  groping each other.

Christopher earns some money by teaching a young German teen-age girl English.  Later he has sex in his bed with another fellow.  Gerald checks look through the key hole at the action.  A customer pays Jean Ross for sex.  After sex Christopher sneaks his guest out of the apartment building even though people know what's going on.  They kiss goodbye.  Christopher seems so happy. 

The English woman invites Christopher in for a chat.  She tells him that she is a singer and he has to come see her performance.  They walk together on the street and the woman explains that she came to Berlin with a friend, but she soon left for Paris, leaving her stranded in Berlin.  They eat at an outdoor cafe.  The woman is very loud and extroverted.  She describes herself as an old whore, which offends a woman sitting at a table next to her and Christopher.  Christopher tells her he's a novelist and she says that his next book will sell extremely well because it will be all about her, Jean Ross.  She borrows ten marks from Christopher (whom she calls Chris) to takes a taxi ride.  Chris lends her the money, she leaves and Christopher already starts writing about her in his journal. 

With Christopher and Christin, a group of men sun themselves and another fellow, Caspar, takes a dip in a lake. 

A young, extremely rich, Jewish man wants to employ Christopher as an English teacher to keep his English very sharp.  The man's last name in Landauer, as in Landauer's Department Store.  He asks Christopher if he is politically active?  Christopher says he has his sympathies, but doesn't really actively engage in politics.  Landauer says that will have to change when the Nazis take over power in Germany.  When that happens, he says, they will all have to take to the streets in protest. 

Caspar flexes his muscles in a full-length mirror and tells Christopher that he ought to go to the gymnasium like he does.  Caspar jumps on the bed and starts wrestling with his friend, which soon turns into love-making.  They are interrupted by someone upstairs yodeling very loudly. 

Christin and Christopher sit at a table in the Cozy Corner and Christin tells him that there are many men here that will have sex with other men primarily for the money.  Christopher can't believe that applies to Caspar.  His friend warns Christopher that these men will tell you anything you want to hear.

Christopher watches Jean Ross perform.  He goes to the restroom to urinate.  A Nazi in a brown shirt uniform comes in to urinate in the urinal next to Christopher.  Christopher seems a bit uneasy being that close to a Nazi.  After her performance, Jean introduces Chris to Bobby Gilbert, who is "in steel".  She describes Chris as "my best friend".

Christopher gets mad at Caspar for not showing up to meet their appointments.  He borrows money, but doesn't pay it back.  Caspar empathizes with Christopher's frustration saying he has had similar experiences with gay men.  This makes Christopher very angry.  He calls Caspar a bastard and hits him in the face.  The two men struggle with each other and this ends in kissing again. 

Drinking at the bar, Christopher the narrator says that Caspar just suddenly disappeared.  He asked around about him, but nobody had seen or heard from him.  He started thinking that Christin was right.  Maybe Caspar was just a business transaction after all. 

Christopher tells Jean that he is earning a bit more money by writing for a magazine called Action.  Jean says she hates that publication and if he writes for it, he will no longer be her friend.  Christopher doesn't want to lose her friendship so he says he was just "testing the water" to find out about the magazine.  He's not really going to write for them.  Jean is worried about the way things seem to be going in Germany.  The Nazis are getting more and more powerful and no one seems to care about it.  She says the Germans are going to get a shock at the coming turn of events.  She wants her and Christopher to take a stand against the Nazis. 

A man is flogging Gerald and Christopher, the land lady and another woman are listening to the groans of Gerald and looking at him through the key hole. 

At a side walk cafe, Christopher keeps staring at a young man who is a street cleaner.  The fellow notices Christopher staring at him.  Bobby, Jean and Christopher have some champagne in Jean's room.  They are celebrating the publication of Christopher's second book.  Bobby throws off his robe to get naked and jumps into bed with Jean.  Christopher gets off the bed fast. 

The brown-shirts are roaming the streets looking for people to hurt and Jewish shops to smash.  Christopher runs into a building to be out of their way.  After they pass by, Christopher sees his street cleaner and chases after him.  He catches up with the fellow and asks him if he will go out with him for a beer?  Narrator Christopher says that his name was Heinz Neddermayer and he was innocent and vulnerable, so Christopher thought he could protect him from the cold, cruel world.  He also began to fall in love with Heinz. 

Christopher and Heinz pay a visit to Frau Neddermayer.  She complains about the coldness and dampness of her apartment.  Heinz says she should be in a hospital.  His older brother says he will take care of mother. 

Gerald gets in a bit of trouble because he took a loan from one man to bribe the police so he could get a bigger sum of money from a man who wanted a certain police dossier. And now the man who lent him the money wants his money back from Gerald.  But the problem is that the wealthier man just suddenly disappeared.  One day he enters his room, is hit by somebody and falls to the floor with a thud.  Later he writes a letter to Christopher that he had to get out of Berlin fast.  He hopes Christopher will still think well of him, despite all this. 

Frau Neddermeyer is going to a sanatorium.  Christopher gives the family an amount of money that impresses everyone in the family.  The older brother gets angry and stomps out of the room.   Heinz says that his brother Gerhardt is going to go see his "Nazi friends".  Mother asks Christopher to watch over her boy because she would hate to think of him all alone in the world.  She also says that she wishes they could have their old Kaiser back.     

Herr Landauer speaks with Christopher about the Nazis.  He says that Hitler is a very strong leader.  The many  poor and unemployed in Germany see Hitler as their savior.  He says this Nazism in spreading like a virus.  He hopes that Christopher has been paying a little attention to politics because:  "We must all stand by our own kind, Christopher, whatever the cost."

Christopher and Heinz go to see Jean perform.  Later at Heinz's apartment they sing the song "I can't give you anything but love, baby", while Heinz serves up dinner.  Gerhardt enters the room and he looks angry.  Heinz immediately gets up to introduce him to Jean Ross.  All Gerhardt says is get these people out of here.  He then says in English that Christopher is no longer welcome here.  Christopher asks why?  Because his father asked him to protect his mother and brother.  Of course, he always objects to the homosexuality.  Furthermore, Gerhardt praises Hitler as the savior of the people.  Now get out!  Christopher and Jean leave quickly. 

The brown shirts are really beating and kicking a man.  Jean sees this and runs over to shout her condemnation of the Nazis.  The brown shirts are taken aback by this.  They run away.  Shortly afterward, the police arrive.  Back in her apartment Jean tells Christopher that they can't just stand by and watch all this mayhem:  the raids, the beatings, the street fights. 

Nazis in a truck throw out propaganda leaflets to the people on the street.  Christopher sees Heinz on the street and goes over to talk with him.  His mother just passed away.  Gerhardt says nothing when Christopher and Jean show up for the funeral. 

Jean tells Christopher that she has virtually no money and starts crying.  She tells him that Bobby went back to the United States.  So the trip to Hollywood is off.    Christopher says:  "Typical bloody American!"  Jean tells Christopher that she is pregnant, but won't keep the baby. 

Jean cries as she sings a sad song in the cabaret.  Christopher helps pay for the abortion and goes with her to the doctor. 

Christopher walks into the now empty apartment where Jean once lived.  The land lady says:  "They come; they go. That's how it will always be."

Spring, 1933.  Herr Hitler has become the Chancellor of Germany and now through the use of violence and terror he will soon have complete control of Germany.  His landlady tells Christopher that the police were here looking for Herr Landauer.  On the street loud speakers make it possible for everyone to hear Hitler's speech.  Christopher tries to get past the Nazi guards in front of the Landauer store entrance, but he is stopped and told that this is a Jewish establishment.  Christopher recognizes the guard as his bedmate Caspar.  He is amazed to see that Caspar is now a Nazi.  He is advised not to enter the store, but Christopher says he has to buy some socks. He goes in. 

Christopher watches a Nazi-organized book burning.  Oscar Wilde and Thomas Mann are a couple of the authors whose books are being burned.  Christopher stands there deeply saddened and says to himself:  "Shame!  Shame!" 

Christopher goes into Landauer's beautiful home, but now it's not so beautiful after it has been ransacked by the Nazis.  The word "Jew" is written all over the home. 

Christopher is going home.  He can't take any more of Herr Hitler.  Heinz is going with him.   

London, October 1933.  The whole family and Heinz have dinner together.  Heinz is only staying for two weeks because of German restrictions on travel.  Heinz goes outside to smoke.  Christopher tells his mother that he is going to try to get Heinz out of Germany permanently.  Mother keeps criticizing Christopher by asking him many negative questions.  Christopher gets very frustrated by her. 

The immigration office is going to make Heinz go back to Germany.  Christopher does his best to dissuade the official he talks to, but the man won't/can't budge from his position.  Christopher is fuming mad.  He goes over to Heinz and tells him that he is sorry.  Heinz stay there in the immigration office. 

At home Richard asks his brother about who the Sally Bowel's character in the bookd is based on?  He is going over Christopher's writings and asks him questions.

Christopher is going back to Germany to see if he can get Heinz permanently out of that country.  Mother hugs her son goodbye. 

As narrator Christopher says he and Heinz flitted from one European country to another to save him from the Nazis.  But then, Heinz was arrested by the Gestapo.  "And that was that." 

London, 1937.  Christopher is having tea at a really posh place.  Jean Ross comes in trying to sell a communist newspaper to the wealthy.  She sees Christopher and she can't believe it.  Christopher's big smile indicates that he wants her to come over and have something to drink with him.  In her bag she has the book "Sally Bowles" by Christopher and says she takes it everywhere she goes.  He says that Heinz has to work two years for the government and then spend two years in the army.  Jean uses another colorful curse word drawing attention to herself once again.  Jean says that she has lost faith in men, including Christopher.  She excuses herself and kisses Chris.  Christopher says he would like to see her again, but she says nothing on that subject and leaves.

Christopher sits on a bench with the friend Wystan Auden who got him to go to Berlin in the first place.  He comments that he doesn't really belong anywhere and he rather likes being a foreigner.

Los Angeles, California, 1976.  Christopher looks through a photo album of the friends he made in Berlin. 

Berlin, 1952.  Christopher visits Heinz, who has to live in East Berlin in East Germany.  He tells Heinz that he feels guilty about taking the German to England, but not being able to keep him there.  Heinz is not bitter about it at all.  He says that Christopher changed his life for the better.  He has a wife named Hilda, who doesn't ask him questions.  And he has a son, Christoph.  Christopher is very honored.  Heinz says he is thinking of taking his family out to California and they could act as Christopher's family.  Christopher does not like the idea and Heinz is very disappointed.  Heinz tells Christopher that he does understand.  Heinz leaves. 

Christopher goes back to the apartment building where he, Jean and Gerald lived.  There he runs into his former landlady. They hug each other.  She says that she was so lucky not to have been put in the Russian sector of Berlin.  She also comments that the last years of the war were really terrible for them. 

Christopher sees his old clock on a desk.  The landlady gives it to him.  

"Christopher and Wystan Auden settled in America, Wystan on the east coast, Christopher on the west.  In 1953 Christopher met the artist Don Bachardy who became his lifelong partner.  Toward the end of their mother's life, Christopher's brother Richard shared her bed.  On June 15, 1960 he awoke to find her dead beside him.  Christopher decided not to attend the funeral.  Christopher and His Kind was published in 1976.  Heinz was appalled by its frankness.  They never communicated again."

 

Good movie.  Because I have seen Cabaret, the story in the film was pretty well known.  There are more characters in this film than in Cabaret.  This film gives the "real" story behind the Cabaret film.  The homosexuality in this film is much more explicit than in Cabaret.  It both starts and finishes with homosexuality.  It's not my cup of tea, but I was able to watch every scene without turning my head away.  I felt sympathy with Isherwood the novelist and cared what happened to him and his friends.  Berlin was heaven for awhile for Isherwood, but eventually the Nazis ruined everything for everybody.  The Sally Bowels (aka, Jean Ross) character was really crazy, but always interesting.  Matt Smith (as Christopher Isherwood) and Imogen Poots (as Sally Bowles/Jean Ross) were both very good in the film.

 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

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