A naked young man with a tinted face stands handcuffed to a lamp post in some alley in Berlin. He does not plead for help, nor does he cry in despair; he is simply uncomfortable with the bizarre situation he finds himself in. A mature man in a suit walks by and finds this fragile young man, who seems to have gone through some hazing ritual or bullying, and helps him out. They both go to the older man’s apartment, where they end up spending the night together.
Sodom tells the story of how the 20-year-old, Will (Pip Brignall), and Michael (Jo Weil) become emotionally involved after the peculiar encounter. They share a bed at Will’s place, along with a few drinks and tender moments reflecting on anecdotes about their previous relationships. Suddenly the two men, who were complete strangers, now have a deep understanding of one another. It is hard to say where their confessions came from. Do they share a hunch that they have a long future ahead of them, or do they simply feel comfortable relating intimate stories because they both sense, tacitly, they will never see each other again?
This complex tension between Will and Michael, aggravated by a fulminating sexual attraction, create a manifold connection which the film depicts with a precise direction. The director, Mark Wilshin, constructs this emotionally intertwined relationship by gambling on the performances of Pip Brignall and Jo Weil, making sure the viewer comes closer to the characters through a still camera focused on their acting, thus creating an intimate effect for the viewer. The technical approach – from the sound of kissing lips acutely contrasted with colourful images of graceful human forms – gives us the impression that we are also trapped in this parallel universe circumvented by a spacious yet cosy apartment.
Despite their unplanned empathy which only an explosive attraction can bring on, Will and Michael have conflicting approaches towards their sexual desire and identity. Whereas Michael has lived long enough to discern his place in life, Will seems overwhelmed and confused by the temptations invoked by this encounter.
Yet the movie’s script transcends the classical narrative of an unexpected one-night-stand evolving into a love story. Even though both characters are genuine inamoratos, as the story goes, something fraternal (and, at times, even paternal) can be sensed in the air. The age discrepancy seems to play a central role here, and speaks to the greater message of the film.
Both characters appear not only to be in different phases of their lives, but also belong to different generations. Whereas Michael’s contemporaries had to fight hard against discrimination and overcome all sort of barriers to be able to live out their sexual preferences, the world where Will was born is substantially less hostile towards the LGBTQ community. This revelation is the biggest strength of the movie. Sodom’s script tackles, in a unique way, the potential conflicts of coming out and the difficulties Will and his generation still face in enjoying the taste of freedom in a supposedly progressive modern world.