From stage to screen
A film version of the acclaimed stage play Bent is using some unusual Scottish locations to recreate wartime Germany. Alan Morrison visited the set.
Long black overcoat. black helmet. red armband with black swastika. Fifty years on. images of Nazi uniforms in newsreels and in books can still send a shiver through our souls. To see three Nazi soldiers storm into a flat. grab a man and slit his throat has the power to freeze you in your steps. even when you know it's being staged for the cameras. The rehearsal is over. the cast and crew are in place. and director Sean Mathias is ready to shoot one of the most dramatic scenes in Bent. a cinema version of Martin Sherman‘s play. Night shoots. done in deserted Glasgow streets and at Braehead Power Station near Renfrew. are already in the can. For the second week of Scottish location work. the crew has moved further south to the Doon Valley. Past the golf courses of Troon and Prestwick. further out into the remote countryside. sits the Dunaskin Heritage
Centre. an open air museum originally built in the Iii-10s as an ironworks that later incorporated coal mines and brick kilns. The red of the bricks jars against the green of the hills. but not as much as the knowledge that this post- industrial idle is being transformed into a Nazi concentration camp.
Bent. written in I977. is a key work in gay theatre. at love story centring on three men who are persecuted by the Nazis. The action moves from the decadence of Berlin in the l93()s to the grim reality of Dachau. although this production doesn't aim for the period authenticity of ('u/nu‘er or Schindler is US! as much as a nuir-is/i expressionism that's closer to the German cinema of the period.
At London's Royal Court. the lead
Clive Owen (left) and Ian McKellen team up In Bent
Boys are made in the land of their stories' birth. the fact that Benr's producers chose Scotland for a film about Nazi Germany is a solid boost for the country‘s film industry. The more flexible viability of Scotland for location work was also seen last year when Edinburgh stood in for Thomas Hardy's fictionalised Oxford in Jmle.
‘There was no pressure on us to shoot here because of funding schemes.‘ explains producer Michael Solinger. ‘We just found the locations we wanted. Facilities like Braehead Power Station are usually immediately torn down when no longer used. but this was a unique site in terms of what it symbolised for the language of the film. And the Dunaskin location is perfect for the concentration camp — something that looks a bit pastoral and might be a bit deceptive. hiding the horror. ’
The main difficulty facing Solinger is that levels of production in Scotland are unprecedentedly high this summer. ‘The biggest problem that we confronted is that you have The .S'lul) Buys and The C mn' Rmul filming. so that. by the time we came on board to
role of Max was first played by Ian McKellen. while Richard Gere won the critics over with his Broadway run. Directors' names attached to the project in the past have included Fassbinder and Costa-Gavras. but it now marks the film debut of Sean Mathias. who directed the National Theatre's I99l
revival of the play. The film also brings km}; for a Scomgh crew. they were so together the eclectic mix of Clive Owen mm on the ground [hm we had to bring (C‘IIMY’ 11’1' IL:\'(’.\' (Hid. 111011: I'CCCIIII)’. IhC a Cl°c\v up frOIH London. which pl" a BBC.“ Bill/131’." [NW-")- LOlhilll'C financial constraint on me which I Bluteau (Jesus 0/ i'I/Innlreul and The would have preferred "m m have had.
(‘mi/essimnil). Ian McKellen (this time as Uncle Freddie) and Mick Jagger as cabaret performer Greta.
While it might be expected that Scottish-themed films such as Rob Roy. 'li'uins/m/Iing and — shooting in Glasgow at the moment — The S/ah
But in terms of filming here. it‘s been an absolute dream. The extras have been fantastic. the crew we did find here are brilliant. and the whole community seems really supportive.‘ Ben! is due for cinema release late in [997.
RENFIELD STREET, GLASGOW HEART OF THE CITY
Twister (PG) The Hunchback of Notre Dame (U) Mission Impossible (PG) The Rock (15) Kingpin (12) The Cable Guy (12) Rainbow (PG)
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24 The List 26 Jul-8 Aug 1996 N