A Safe Place – Sexuality in the Cinema

Amos Guttman
  • Rate

As was the case for countless gay men in the age before the LGBT Pride revolution, for Guttman too, the movie theatre offered refuge and sanctuary. In a time when homosexuality was still criminalised in many countries, the films (ranging from gripping melodramas and extravagant, highly-stylised musicals to horror movies) provided respite and a safe haven; a place one could escape to and leave all their troubles at the door; forget about the need to hide your true self, the homophobia, the rejection, and the endless other woes which in those dark times, punctuated every gay man’s existence.
Guttman loved film with every fibre of his being. He was tremendously erudite and had the most impressive VHS tape collection. His films were littered with homages to the great divas (from Anna Magnani to Romy Schneider) and tributes to his favourite films and directors. In an interview he once gave, Guttman even described how he felt that “film has saved me.” It is therefore perhaps of little surprise that his follow-up film was titled, A Safe Place. That safe space being the movie theatre to which the film’s protagonist (Doron Nesher) – a lonely teen confronting his surging hormones, horniness, and burgeoning sexuality – would escape every chance he got. His bedroom walls are adorned with images of Marilyn Monroe and Marlene Dietrich; he prefers the darkness of the cinema to the classroom and the company of his schoolmates, whilst his bored and depressed mother huffs at him, “you watch way too many films.”
When our hero goes out to watch The Sound of Music, the movie theatre is suddenly no longer as safe a place as it had been until now – a strange, older man sits at his side and uses the darkness as his chance to hit on him and cop a feel; an explicit scenario that plays out in contrast with the merry sounds and saccharine sweetness of the film showing onscreen. Our hero then flees the cinema in terror. Guttman notably dedicated the film to Margaret Leighton, who was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Supporting Actress category for her performance in The Go-Between, and who died of MS in 1976.