Wednesday, May 11, 2016
2016 Cannes Marathon: Young Torless
(Winner of the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1966 Cannes Film Festival)
Based on the autobiographical novel by Robert Musil, Der junge Torless (Young Torless) is the story of a young boy who attends a boarding school in Austria as he copes with the violence as he sees a classmate beaten by other students. Written for the screen and directed by Volker Schlondorff and screen story by Herbert Asmodi, the film is about a young boy dealing with his new surroundings in early 20th Century Austria as he sees a world that is violent and troubling. Starring Mathieu Carriere, Marian Seidowsky, Bernd Tischer, Fred Dietz, and Barbara Steele. Der junge Torless is a haunting yet provocative film from Volker Schlondorff.
The film revolves around a young student attending a boarding school in a small Austrian town where he sees a classmate being punished severely by other students over a theft. Rather than reporting or do something, he reluctantly joins in as a way to fit in where he eventually becomes consumed with guilt and later filled with shame for taking in the role of punishing this kid all because of a simple theft of money from another classmate. Volker Schlondorff’s script doesn’t just study what the film’s titular character (Mathieu Carriere) goes through in his attempts to fit in but also realize that his classmate Basini (Marian Seidowsky) did something wrong as Torless wonders if he should’ve reported him first. It adds a lot into Torless’ development where he is someone that is very intelligent but lacks the social skills to fit in as he tries to be tough towards Basini only to realize that the punishment is way too harsh.
Schlondorff’s direction is very engaging for the way it captures life at this boarding school in a small Austrian town in the early 20th Century. While many of the compositions and the way Schlondorff presents life in a classroom or in a dorm where many of the students sleep. The environment of the school is quite entrancing for not just how students have to interact and be with teachers but also in some of the secret aspects where Basini would be punished for his actions as it would eventually delve into something far crueler. The direction uses a lot of close-ups and medium shots to play into the intimacy of the classrooms but also in the moments outside of the school where Torless would meet a prostitute named Bozena (Barbara Steele) who would try to seduce him but Torless reacts very shyly. The moments where Basini is punished are quite gruesome as it’s not just this sense of physical torture but also mental as Torless’ classmates do cruel things as it culminates to the point where Torless making a decision of his own no matter what the consequences are. Overall, Schlondorff create a chilling yet mesmerizing film about a young boy’s time in a horrific boarding school.
Cinematographer Franz Rath does brilliant work with the black-and-white photography to capture much of the beautiful look of the rooms and exterior settings at night with its usage of lights to create a mood along with some eerie scenes set in the daytime. Editor Claus von Boro does excellent work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts and other stylish cuts to play into the drama as well as the intense moments of torment that Torless is forced to watch. Art director Maleen Pacha does fantastic work with the look of the school including its classrooms and gymnasium as well as the look of the coffee bar and Bozena‘s home. The sound work of Klaus Eckelt is terrific for the atmosphere of the classrooms including some of its raucous moments as well as the eerie and more quieter moments during Basini‘s torture scenes. The film’s music by Hans Werner Henze is wonderful for its orchestral-based score that is more in the tradition of pre-World War II music to create suites that set the dramatic tone for the film.
The film’s superb cast include some notable small roles from co-writer Herbert Asmodi and Hanna Axmann-Rezzori as Torless’ parents, Fritz Gehlen as the school’s headmaster, Jean Luanay as the school’s math teacher whom Torless converses with, and Lotte Ledl as the innkeeper who serves the students coffee and such outside of the school. Barbara Steele is fantastic as the local prostitute Bozena who would charm Torless though she understands his shyness while she later meets him late in the film where she is aware of what he is going through. Bernd Tischer and Fred Dietz are excellent in their respective roles as Beineberg and Reiting as the two elder students who would torment Basini with the former being the mastermind as it was his money that Basini stole.
Marian Seidowsky is brilliant as Basini as young student who stole money to cover some debts as he finds himself being punished severely by other students where he nearly succumbs to madness. Finally, there’s Mathieu Carriere as Thomas Torless as this young student who copes with taking part in the punishments where he enjoys it at first only to cope with the severity as well as his own issues in fitting in and making sense of all that is happening.
Der junge Torless is a phenomenal film from Volker Schlondorff. Featuring a great cast and compelling themes of conformity, guilt, and power, it’s a film that explores the world of an Austrian boarding school told from the perspective of a young boy who sees a world that is very dark. In the end, Der junge Torless is a sensational film from Volker Schlondorff.
The Tin Drum
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