Thursday, December 10, 2015

Volker Schlöndorff: 'Der junge Törless' / 'Young Törless' (1966)

Volker Schlöndorff's first movie, in stark black and white -- Der junge Törless / Young Törless (1966) -- is set in and around the Prinz Eugen military school in the Austro-Hungarian Empire before the First World War (1914-1918). It's an excellent film in every detail. Perhaps most importantly, it serves as a kind of parable for the rise of fascism and, indeed, provides insight into contemporary phenomena like the increased popularity of the National Front in France and Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in the United States. In this way and more, Young Törless is concerned with how social psychology works as a psychic battleground between mass contagion and individual choice. 
Here we have Törless (seated), the rather twisted Beineberg (smoking) and Bozena, their amorous acquaintance. 
A good deal of the plot of Young Törless involves the scapegoating of Basini, another, weaker student, for sadistic fun. Here, three of the cadets plot further amusement in "the Attic," a secret night meeting place. Think Lord of the Flies.  
Young Törless is grounded in a 1906 novel, Die Verwirrungen des Zöglings Törleß / The Confusions of Young Törless, by Robert Musil (1880-1942), "the Austrian Proust." 

In the arc of the story, the title character sees how people can be drawn into increasingly depraved acts without any apparent brakes on their conduct. In his case, he is able to depart freely, after seeing more than enough. Here, Törless may be a stand-in for exiles and refugees; certainly he is someone who bears witness to human nastiness, coming away with some dirt on his own hands.

Such deep explorations of human psychology in action continue in Volker Schlöndorff's later work, in films such as Der Fangschuß / Coup de Grâce (1976), Die Blechtrommel / The Tin Drum (1979), Un amour de Swann / Swann in Love (1984), The Handmaid's Tale (1990), and others. 

Today's Rune: Partnership. 

1 comment:

t said...

social psychology - I've got to take that Coursera class
donald trump psychology - I was just looking at a blog by dilbert guy who seems really interested in this