Scrapbookpages Blog

May 26, 2014

My review of the HBO movie “The Normal Heart”

Filed under: Health, movies — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 10:49 am

I was frankly disappointed with the movie entitled The Normal Heart, which I saw on TV last night. But my disappointment was due to my own fault.  I wish that I had read up on the plot, before seeing the movie. Then I might have understood it.

I was expecting Jim Parsons, the guy who plays Sheldon Cooper, on the TV show The Big Bang Theory, to be the main star in the movie.  Instead, the main star in the movie is Mark Ruffalo, who plays the part of a gay man named Ned Weeks.  Jim Parsons has a relatively minor part in the movie; he plays the part of a gay man very well, since he is gay in real life.

The Ned Weeks character in the movie is based on the life of Larry Kramer, a gay man who wrote a mostly autobiographical play called The Normal Heart.  The play focused on the rise of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City between 1981 and 1984, as seen through the eyes of writer/activist Ned Weeks, the gay Jewish-American founder of a prominent HIV advocacy group.

The movie starts out with a color photo of Liberace, dressed in all his finery, and another photo of his young lover. Liberace was one of the first gay men to die of AIDS. Then we see the date 1981, shown on a large expanse of blue water.  A boat appears on the water, and we learn that the boat is going to Fire Island in New York, where Ned Weeks (Larry Kramer) lives. We learn that Fire Island is a gay Mecca. Then we see an extremely handsome man, to whom Ned Weeks is attracted.

As the movie progresses, this handsome man’s looks are destroyed when he gets “gay cancer,” the early name for AIDS, when the disease was thought to be a new kind of cancer. To his credit, Ned Weeks stands by his man, but the movie soundtrack doesn’t play the song “Stand by your man.”  Instead we hear the Gershwin song, “The man I love.”  The implication is that love between two men is perfectly normal.

Very early in the movie, the Dachau concentration camp and the killing of Jews in Poland is mentioned. No one spoke up about the killing of the Jews, the same way that no one spoke up about gay men dying from a new disease.

I was very surprised that the subject of Dachau was brought up. If I had researched the story, before watching the movie, I would have known that Larry Kramer, upon whose life the movie is based, actually made a trip to Dachau after World War II.  In the movie, the implication is that gay men are now dying needlessly in New York, and no one is speaking up about it.

In the first part of the movie, it is mentioned that half of the cases, of this new disease, are in New York, where there are millions of gay men.  In the movie, it is claimed that the US government is INTENTIONALLY ignoring this new disease, which is affecting only gay men, because government officials would like to see gay men wiped out in America.  The first name, that was given to this new disease, was GRID, which stands for Gay Related Immune Deficiency.

At the end of the movie, we learn that 36 million people have died of AIDS. This includes a large number of men and women, who died of the disease in Africa.  The disease spread around the world because Fire Island, where AIDS started, was visited by gay men from all over the world.

One thing, in the movie, that might be of great interest to the followers of my blog, is the mention of Alan Turing, a gay man who “cracked the Enigma code,” which led to the Allies winning World War II.  The implication is that gay men are no different than straight men, and if the US government allows all the gay men in America to die, there will be no more gay geniuses like Alan Turing.

This quote about Alan Turning is from Wikipedia:

Alan Turing was arrested and came to trial on 31 March 1952, after the police learned of his sexual relationship with a young Manchester man. He made no serious denial or defence, instead telling everyone that he saw no wrong with his actions. He was particularly concerned to be open about his sexuality even in the hard and unsympathetic atmosphere of Manchester engineering. Rather than go to prison he accepted, for the period of a year, injections of oestrogen intended to neutralise his libido. […]

A factor in his life unknown to most around him was that he had also continued to work for GCHQ, the post-war successor to Bletchley Park, on the basis of a personal connection with Alexander, now its director. But since 1948, the conditions of the Cold War, and the alliance with the United States, meant that known homosexuals had become ineligible for security clearance. Turing, now therefore excluded, spoke bitterly of this to his onetime wartime colleague, now MI6 engineer Donald Bayley, but to no other personal friends. State security also seems the likely cause of what he described as another intense crisis in March 1953, involving police searching for a visiting Norwegian who had come to see him. Concern over the foreign contacts of one acquainted with state secrets was understandable, and his holiday in Greece in 1953 could not have been calculated to calm the nerves of security officers.

Although unable to tell his friends about questions of official secrecy, in other ways he actively sought much greater intimacy of expression with them and with a Jungian therapist. Eccentric, solitary, gloomy, vivacious, resigned, angry, eager, dissatisfied — these had always been his ever-varying characteristics, and despite the strength that he showed the world in coping with outrageous fortune, no-one could safely have predicted his future course.

He was found by his cleaner when she came in on 8 June 1954. He had died the day before of cyanide poisoning, a half-eaten apple beside his bed. His mother believed he had accidentally ingested cyanide from his fingers after an amateur chemistry experiment, but it is more credible that he had successfully contrived his death to allow her alone to believe this. The coroner’s verdict was suicide.