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Young Torless - Criterion Collection
Young Torless - Criterion Collection
Actors: Mathieu Carrière, Marian Seidowsky, Bernd Tischer, Fred Dietz, Lotte Ledl
Director: Volker Schlöndorff
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
UR     2005     1hr 27min

At an Austrian boys? boarding school in the early 1900s, shy, intelligent Törless observes the sadistic behavior of his fellow students, doing nothing to help a victimized classmate?until the torture goes too far.


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Movie Details

Actors: Mathieu Carrière, Marian Seidowsky, Bernd Tischer, Fred Dietz, Lotte Ledl
Director: Volker Schlöndorff
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Studio: Criterion
Format: DVD - Black and White,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 03/15/2005
Original Release Date: 07/22/1968
Theatrical Release Date: 07/22/1968
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 1hr 27min
Screens: Black and White,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 13
Edition: Special Edition,Criterion Collection
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: German
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Schlendorff's First is a Masterpiece
I. Martinez-Ybor | Miami, FL USA | 04/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Robert Musil's "Confusions of Young Törless" was published in 1906, the twilight of 19th century certainties (Freud published "Studies in Hysteria" in 1895, "Interpretation of Dreams" in 1900; Franz Wedekind's "Spring Awakening" was published in 1890, first produced in 1906, and banned in 1908; Einstein's General Theory was less than a decade away), in Austria-Hungary, a semi-faux empire taking too long to rot away. The greatness of Musil's work lies in its distillation of the zeitgeist into a relatively simple narrative about an incident of abuse in a boys' academy. Once on paper, the novel (at times a meditation) transcends time and place, and makes a statement about adults and children dealing with passion, knowledge, order and justice, while trying to grasp within themselves that which in themselves they can neither control nor fully understand (ergo the metaphoric use of discussions about imaginary numbers) finally resorting to rationalization, dogma and discipline. Törless, his companions, his teachers and the school chaplain struggle in darkness, deluding themselves as having been truly enlightened in some fashion by experience, whereas each in their own way, seeks only to quiet internal turmoil and restore comprehensible order. Whatever else, the work is extremely ironic, nowhere more than in its title, as "Confusions" are not limited to Young Törless but to the whole world around him. Musil was 26 when it was published.

Schlendorf's film captures all of this. With one important caveat, it is an extremely faithful rendering of the novel and its spirit. The austere black and white photography, the faithfully sparse setting, the economical dialogue, strip the film to bare essentials: nothing distracts from its core. It is excellently acted. The caveat is sex. Sex is a pervasive and disruptive force throughout Musil's novel. At one point, Törless is sexually aroused when witnessing abuse. Beineberg, Reiting and Törless individually, albeit differently, use Basini sexually. Basini uses his sexuality to press his case with Törless; Törless rationalizes his own acquiescence. All four use the town whore. Part of Törless "confusions" is his intellectualization of his own sexual turbulence: does he act this or that way because what he thinks, or do his feelings shape his thoughts which then rationalize his actions? It is not a question of sexual identity as one would face in early 21st century, but an awareness of the disruptive power of passion within him. Schlendorff does not betray Musil, but, other than with the whore, sexuality is handled through cursory dialogue and inference, less centrally and pervasively than in the novel. The film was made in 1966; perhaps today it would be made differently, the challenge remaining to make it at least as well. Another, if unintended, irony about a work published sixty years before the masterful film was made.

The thoroughly anachronistic score by Hans Werner Henze reinforces the universal and timeless predicament the film depicts. Neither I nor, I think, Schlendorff see a premonition of Nazism in Musil's novel; such inference obscures meaning, deflects relevance and diminishes the work. What was true and relevant in the 1906 text remains true and relevant today. "Confusion" can still be apt description for humankind: arguably, the delusions, contradictions, and self-righteousness in contemporary America provide a good example. In the end, there is a touch of smugness to the irony with which Young Törless concludes, a detachment in both Musil and Schlendorff, which translates as apprehensive harbinger of our expanding awareness of ourselves, of what we can do, and of the absurdly infinite capacity and recondite ways we find to grant ourselves absolution. "Yes we can..." a frightening thought indeed.

The Criterion CD, again, as in all their editions, is pristine; truly a product of high quality."
Not For Everyone
Bruce Frier | Ann Arbor, MI USA | 03/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This mid-1960s film was one of the first German movies to explore a touchy topic: why Germans so widely acquiesced in the savagery of the Nazi regime. The film is based on Robert Musil's 1906 novel about a young man at an Austrian military academy before the First World War. The novel was extraordinarily prescient in diagnosing some deep and ultimately tragic flaws in Austrian and German society. The film follows the novel fairly closely.

The story is simple: two cadets institute a gradually escalating campaign of humiliation and torture directed against another boy (Bassini, incidentally played by a Jewish actor), while T?rless looks on, repulsed and yet on some level intrigued. The violence is real but not especially graphic (at least by contemporary standards). The real theme is T?rless's incapacity to understand the torture on other than an abstract intellectual level -- like the mathematical imaginary numbers that are one of the movie's few strong metaphors.

This story became far more powerful after the Second World War. Volker Schlöndorff's black-and-white widescreen filming is extraordinarily bleak; the academy sits on an essentially featureless plain. The Criterion restoration is excellent; even the original score has been recovered.

Not everyone will respond to this film, I admit. But those who do are likely to find it impossible to forget."
The Origin of Evil - A Disturbing and Cerebral Journey...
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 03/22/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Notions of the origin of evil have caused many philosophers to ponder the dilemma about its whereabouts. Some suggest that evil is taught as children are born with minds that bring to mind blank slates. Despite the thoughts that children are blank slates at birth, children can accomplish great evil without any formal training. All that has to be present is a situation that allows the child to express their unkind cruelty. Thus, evil could be found in the moments when a child lets their imagination run amok. Maybe, imagination is the source to evil, especially when boredom sets in. In any case, Young Törless visualizes the moment when evil arises within a group of teenagers at a military academy in a dreary countryside to which only the finest families send their sons.

The film opens at the Neudorf railway station where the parents of the young teenager Törless request that his peers will take good care of him. The parents' pleading for safety of their son becomes slightly overwhelming, yet it depicts how much they love their son. It is essential to understand how sheltered Törless has been while his parents have raised him. This illustrates how innocent Törless is to the cruelty of the world into which he soon is about to be initiated.

The group of teenagers that waived to Törless' parent returns to the small town, which gives further depiction of the teenager's socioeconomic standing in the society. They walk whereever they want without a care in the world, as if they owned the world. The teenagers visit a local inn where they buy wine and gamble without much consideration for the aftermath. Nothing seems to affect them, as they proceed to the military academy where they attend school to become people of high ranking in society.

The story is based on the first novel written by the utopian novelist Robert Musil, which takes place in the Austro-Hungarian kingdom in 1906. The director Volker Schlöndorff's adaptation stays fairly close to the novel, as it illustrates the students at the military academy finding the nature of power through self-discovery. The power that these students discover leads them to humiliate, bully, and torture a fellow student that has stolen some money from one of the other students. The main character, Törless, at first wants to report the theft, but is convinced by two other students to delivery the punishment by themselves.

Törless struggles with the dilemma of evil, as he finds himself going against the moral values that he has been brought up to respect. Instead he begins a cerebral journey while he studies the degrading behavior of his two peers. Ideas of how evil and good coexist within the person begins to baffle Törless, as he struggles with his desire to further his understand of the evil nature within him. He continues to flirt with evil while trying to stay on the good side, yet eventually he comes to a more clear understanding of what is right and wrong.

Many issues seem to affect Törless, as he dwells on the evil within him. Some of these issues that he ponders affect several aspects of his life such as trying to understand his sexuality, women, and their anatomy. Törless' curiosity for women has an obvious connection with his mother, as he seems to look for maternal love in women. This is even suggested by a prostitute performed by Barbara Steele. Strong macho-sadistic tendency in the school triggers Törless' boyish curiosity to further investigate what it truly entails. It almost suggests, on occasion, that Törless might be gay, yet it is never clear as he still seems to try to find his own way to his own identity.

Several comparisons have been made in regards to the Nazi regime through Young Törless, which are evidently present through the structure of the students psyche at the academy. The sadistic elements that dehumanize the student in the way that they bully him are the strongest elements that depict this notion. The strong autocratic control that they exercise over the young thief in the military academy elevates the notion of fascism. In retrospect, this military academy served as a breeding machine for new generations of young extremists, bigots, and callous hypocrites, which viewed themselves above others while lying about their own desires and behaviors.

Young Törless was Volker Schlöndorff's first feature film that brought him into the world of cinema. The film is not technically advanced, but the way he told the visual story through many suggestive shots and cinematic moments is breathtaking. The shot where Törless and Beineberg are sitting in a café where Törless is studying the waitress' neck and arm is wonderful. However, this scene is followed by an even better shot, where Törless and Beineberg stare at each other in silence for a good 20 seconds until the waitress drops a glass on the floor. These shots are good examples of how well directed Young Törless is, as it leaves the audience with a highly contemplative cinematic experience."
A cult movie!
Hiram Gomez Pardo | Valencia, Venezuela | 04/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

Based on a Robert Musil's novel Die Verwirrungen des Zoglings Torless was the source for this allegorical German film. Somehow this film was the real leap to this raisng and promising actor: Mathieu Carriere, who plays Torless, a student in a costly boarding school during the glory days of the Hapsburg Empire. While at school, Carriere is a bystander to the sadistic behavior of fellow students Alfred Dietz and Bernd Tischer. Torless watches with sinister fascination and admiration but does nothing to intervene or to help his classmates' hapless victims. When Tolrless finally does blow the whistle on his friends, it is he who is "invited" to leave the school. This is the formal solution: to delegate in others your own guilts: It's a real exorcism moral without scandal. You know: public virtue, hidden vices.

It's more than obvious the parallels in Young Torless to the Nazi years, then you aren't watching very carefully, and you will obtain an enormous satisfaction, due the smart dialogues, the horror sense and the atrocities who will degrade the human soul to unthinkable limits.

Think in a real jewel film filmed just nine years later, Reinhard Hauff's The brutalization of Franz Blum in which we will obeserve the slow process of adaptation in the hostile jail and you will be able to understand the inner demons of this generation of German filmmakers of the Post War, trying to cathartize themselves the sins and the sordidness of the previous generation."