A Mädchen of Honor
On 18 November 1931 in Berlin, audiences loudly applauded the premiere of Mädchen in Uniform, a film that would go on to ignite both controversy and a burgeoning lesbian cinema. Adapted from Christa Winsloe’s novel Das Mädchen Manuela, and her later play Gestern und Heute (Yesterday and Today), the film tells of a budding love affair between a teacher and a student in a strict Prussian girls academy. While many critics argued the film’s storyline was more an attack on Prussian strictness than sexual conformity, lines like “What you call sin, I call the great spirit of love, which takes a thousand forms,” left little doubt where the film’s heart really was. Along with the 1919 gay male film Anders als die Andern, Mädchen aligned itself with the free-thinking and sexual experimentation of the Weimar Republic. Unfortunately, the film would soon be banned by the Nazis and its Jewish director Leontine Sagan and bisexual author Winsloe would be forced to flee the country. While the film was also banned in the US, and then seriously cut and censored, it was finally restored to its original form and spirit in 1994.