Christopher Isherwood is not an unfamiliar name to me but contrary to most / some, it was not synonymous with famous inspirational and / or influential homosexual author, no. It was the name of the guy that wrote the book A Single Man was based on. Prior familiarity with the name existed in a semi-conscious place but I digress. This BBC film is inspired by his memoir of the same name. This time it’s adapted by Geoffrey Sax (Victoria) and stars Matt Smith (Doctor Who, Official Secrets) as Isherwood.
The cast also includes Imogen Poots (A Long Way Down), Douglas Booth (The Riot Club), Lindsay Duncan (A Discovery of Witches), Toby Jones (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Pip Carter (Spectre), Iddo Goldberg (Snowpiercer) and Alexander Dreymon (The Last Kingdom).
Premise: How British-American author Christopher Isherwood and his German boyfriend Heinz met and fell in love during the 1930s and the rise of Nazism.
Review: There is a documentary feel to the movie that is in part brought on by the opening scene, but mostly by the sensation that this is a reenactment. Similar, but with better production value, to those murder shows in which actors portray victim(s) and killer(s). Christopher and His kind doesn’t scream fiction – it’s not supposed to – but often biopics have a gloss and sheen to them that strip away the realness of what they’re about. I am under no illusion that this was a silver screen adaptation but my point remains.
It’s 1930s Berlin and the film is about Christopher Isherwood but everything happening around him, and history, is not ignored. Sometimes the context is obvious but when it’s subtle, it packs a heavy punch. You don’t need to know your history to feel the tension and despair creeping in. The geopolitical era is character in this film is a character in its own right. It becomes apparent when Christopher starts to shed his naive romanticized view of the world to stand against the threat of fascism. At one point, Landauer even says :
“We must all stand by our own kind, Christopher, whatever the cost.”
In a way accentuating the nice mix of sexuality, socio-economic class, and politics the whole movie has; But at every turn you wonder what is Christopher’s kind?
The answer is maybe answered in the evolution of Christopher, who first arrived in post-WWI Germany in search of freedom, his emancipation from his family, the liberty to express his sexuality. It seems ironic, surely naive, but the man that emerges from those experiences is the man we now know.
With Christopher and His Kind Sax delivers a captivating film seamlessly blending the rise of Nazi Germany and the inception of an icon of the gay movement.