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I DON'T WANT TO BE A MAN, 1918.


"BEING A MAN - IS REALLY VERY EXHAUSTING!"

ERNST LUBITSH'S NINETEEN-EIGHTEEN GENDER BENDING SILENT.

I DON'T WANT TO BE A MAN is a remarkable film in terms of its themes. Touching upon sexual norms, cross-dressing, and same-sex kissing. 

Starting the film we are introduced to a girl of fifteen, perhaps sixteen, Ossi Oswalda. She's a hell-raiser, as she drinks, smokes, and plays poker with the neighboring boys. This causes problems within her home that she shares with her uncle and governess. She believes newfound freedom will come when her uncle is leaves for a new job. This is short-lived, as her hopes are killed when she learns of her guardian, Dr. Kersten, strict manners and rules. She knows this is because she is a woman, one who is attempting to be molded. Frustrated at this, she decides to get a suit made and sneak out as a man, though this comes with its own challenges, as she soon discovers. She finds that she is not given the same gentle treatment when she is masquerading as a male. She then decides to attend a ball in her new disguise. Soon, she sees Dr. Kersten who is attempting to a woo a woman, Ossi seeking her revenge, decides to steal her from him. This ends up bad for both Kersten and Ossi, as another man attracts the woman's attention. Ossi and the doctor reconcile. The two then bond over champagne and cigars, with the doctor still believing that this woman who he is drinking with, is a man. Once the ball is over, the pair walk drunkenly home, stumbling and exchanging a handful of inebriated kisses. After falling asleep in the taxi, the driver sends them two one another's homes. Upon waking up in a strange house, Ossi runs home where the doctor has just awoken and is attempting to sneak out of the house undetected. Still, in her suit, she tells the doctor that she is visiting her cousin Ossi. The doctor begs her not to tell of their "adventure". She agrees and goes upstairs where she begins to undress after a night of excitement, feeling the effects of a hangover. As she starts to take off her suit, the doctor comes into wake her and is astonished to see Ossi standing in the center of the room wearing a man's suit. He begins to put the pieces together. Ossi then scolds him for his behavior, turning him on his own rules and manners. Then giving in to the attraction he feels for her, after a night of bonding, he kisses her. END



THE PICTURE IS LARGELY CARRIED BY Ossi Oswalda, who shares the same name as her character, a common practice within silent films. She in some parts has to become two different characters, the pinball, energetic girl amongst her uncle and governess, that boredom and restriction that comes with growing up and wanting more from life besides manners and poise. And in between, we see moments of revelations, as she becomes dedicated to her disguise, as she learns about social norms between men and women, as she endures struggles and confusion. 

Ossi proves that she does not want to be a man not because being a man is harder than being a woman, but because with her free spirit and charming wit, she can choose to be herself and if not more after this experience, powerful as a woman than as a man. 

OF COURSE, KNOWING HOW HOLLYWOOD WAS to some degree, it can become a shock that this kind of picture was made. Though one has to take into account the fact that lots of films of this kind were produced, though I think not to this extent. Then one also has to consider this fact: the film was made in GERMANY BY ERNST LUBITSCH. Some of his other pictures are TO BE OR NOT TO BE, THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, TROUBLE IN PARADISE, CLUNY BROWN, & NINOTCHKA. The Lubitsch Touch, that is talked about with these other more well-known films, is present here with this further from pre-code that one can get. It's all the more refreshing and unexpected when the old is even more progressive than the new. 

AND LIKE THE OTHER LUBITSCH pictures, it's full of clever observations and interesting shots, but with their gentle touches that make audiences from all generations enjoy them even more. I DON'T WANT TO BE A MAN is full of his two favorite things: sexual references and comedy. Turning both sexes on their heads, showing us that both are equally ridiculous, that no one is better than the other. This picture reveals something about society and it's norms - it's constant attempts at defining what people are and feel. This picture is still needed even after all this time; being in its forty-five-minute run; it's clever, sophisticated (like all Lubitsch's pictures), and packs a sociological wallop.