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Young Torless (The Criterion Collection) (1968)

Mathieu Carrière , Marian Seidowsky , Volker Schlöndorff  |  Unrated |  DVD
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Mathieu Carrière, Marian Seidowsky, Bernd Tischer, Fred Dietz, Lotte Ledl
  • Directors: Volker Schlöndorff
  • Writers: Herbert Asmodi, Volker Schlöndorff, Robert Musil
  • Producers: Franz Seitz, Louis Malle
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Closed-captioned, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: German (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.75:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: March 15, 2005
  • Run Time: 87 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0007989Z2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #187,592 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Young Torless (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features

  • 2004 video interview with writer-director Volker Schlondorff
  • Rare presentation of the original score by acclaimed composer Hans Werner Henze, with a video introduction by Volker Schlondorff
  • Original theatrical trailer

Editorial Reviews

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.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Schlendorff's First is a Masterpiece April 9, 2005
Format:DVD
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.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not For Everyone March 17, 2005
Format:DVD
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 Tőrless 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 Tőrless'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.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
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.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cult movie! April 7, 2005
Format:DVD
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.
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