Young Torless (1966)

30 06 2008

There is nothing wrong with this film per se, but it is not all that exciting. It is certainly a lot better than Volker Schlöndorff’s woeful Lost Honor of Katharina Blum but as far as I’m concerned nothing really groundbreaking is going here, except for the fact that it was one of the first legimately personal German films in a long time. That’s pretty much the only reason this seems to still be considered relevant. Alexander Kluge made Yesterday Girl only two years later, and that film is about a hundred times more innovative. Still, its hard to write the film off for not being as ahead of its time as its peers. Its nice for what it is worth, but history has exaggerated its accomplishment.

Thomas Torless is sent to a boarding school by his parents. He is the new guy but he manages to fit in rather well. In the mean time, his peer, Basini, does anything but. Its bad enough that his debts begin to pile on, but its worse how he must pay them back. Torless’ friends, Beineberg and Reiting make Basini their slave and violently torture him. Torless wants to help but the peer pressue is too great and he begins to become a helpless observer.

To begin, the main character seems rather boring. Like all of his classmates he worries about how much time he is wasting in such a sterile environment. As this angst festers, Torless begins to fall into every dissatisfied youngster film cliché. His hormones are a-ragin’ but he’s too shy to act them out in quite possibly the film’s brightest moment: Torless and his friend visit the household of a waitress who freely whores herself out. The rest of the film trots along in a rather predictable fashion supported by nothing aesthetically defiant. This not a complete disaster, though. Simply a neat not-so-profound study of teenage angst. The sort of film I may have loved many moons ago, but it feels slightly immature at this point.

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