Four Bisexual Movies from the Golden Age of Cinema

Sex in Chains still
The Golden Age of black and white cinema doesn’t seem like the likeliest of places to find a film with overt bisexual themes, but there are a handful of examples that are required viewing for any wannabe queer movie buff. Don’t expect anything original here; each of these films follows the same basic plot, the classic bi love triangle in which an existing relationship is threatened by bisexual urges. Just like in modern bi films like Basic Instinct (1992), Pretty Persuasion (2005) and Y Tu Mamá También (2001) bisexuals here are depraved Casanovas or tortured souls, destroying lives. Here’s  where those cinematic tropes began.

 Michael / 1924

Adapted from a 1902 novel, it’s rumoured that the married director Carl Theodore Dreyer’s drew on experience of his own same-sex affairs when making Michael, the story of an acclaimed artist known as The Master who struggles with his relationship with his model, Mikael. When a bankrupt Countess comes to have her portrait painted the couple are pulled into a love triangle where all is not quite what it seems.
Michael was re-released some years later as The Story of the Third Sex in order to make more of the homoerotic undertones.

Geschlecht in Fesseln (Sex in Chains) / 1928

While in prison for manslaughter, a young newlywed forms a close relationship with one of his cellmates. On his release from prison, he and his wife struggle to come to terms with how separation has changed them.

Reflecting the relaxed cultural climate of the Weimar Republic, the uninhibited directing from William Dieterle makes for an erotically charged melodrama that feels way ahead of its time.

The Fox / 1967

Displaying all the foreshadowing and psychological torment you would expect from a DH Lawrence adaptation, The Fox follows the story of a lesbian couple who, struggling to manage their new farm alone, reluctantly agree to let a sailor home on leave stay with them in exchange for his labour. When the sailor sets his sights on one of his hosts, jealousy and fear are ignited.

[Contains animal violence]

Törst (Thirst) / 1949

Produced in Sweden by celebrated director Ingmar Bergman, and therefore free from the confines of the Hay’s Code that ruled Hollywood in the Golden Age, Thirst nevertheless suffered at the hands of censors, who cut some more overtly queer material.

Against a backdrop of war ravaged Europe, Törst examines the pattern of seduction and antagonism that fuels a disintegrating marriage, darkening and deepening as the story unfolds and revealing the same-sex desires that underpin the pair’s troubles.

The film was released in the UK as Three Strange Loves.

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Libby Baxter-Williams

Libby is a 30-something Londoner, who spends more time reading picture books than is seemly. She became a bi activist entirely by accident, but now she can't imagine living any other way. In the event of an emergency, she'll have a large gin and tonic, thanks.

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